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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ryan Lavarnway Saves The Red Sox' Season (For Real)

Where were you when Ryan Lavarnway blasted two home runs and drove in four RBIs to help the Boston Red Sox (90-71) hang on against the Baltimore Orioles (68-93), 8-7 tonight at Camden Yards?

The Yale product (Theo Epstein must be so proud) was called into duty as Boston's top two catchers-Jarrod Saltalamacchia (collarbone) and Jason Varitek (knee)-weren't able to play due to nagging injuries sustained the last few days.

Ironically, the rookie's bat made all the difference in a game that meant everything as the Red Sox had to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Rays who defeated the New York Yankees by a score of 5-3 and briefly led the AL Wild Card for about 30 minutes.

The regular season finale tomorrow night will be decided with Jon Lester and Alfredo Simon on the mound. In his career, Lester is unbeaten (14-0 in 17 starts) against Baltimore but he will be pitching on three days rest which he has only done once.

It wasn't pretty since of course Erik Bedard (3.1 innings, 3 earned runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts) failed to get out of the fourth inning but when you get to Game No. 161, all that counts is the final result.

I've run out of superlatives for Alfredo Aceves (10-2), he's like the overachieving kid in high school that everybody despises. Pitching for the third night in a row (really), Aceves and his rubberized right arm went 3.2 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with a strikeout.

Daniel Bard (1 inning, 2 earned runs, 3 hits) was up to his September tricks and Jonathan Papelbon (1 inning, 1 earned run, 2 hits) had to survive a 28-pitch ninth but he did it, getting Adam Jones (2 hits) to ground out to end it with the tying run on second.

Orioles youngster Zach Britton (11-11) is going to be good one day, well assuming he gets out of AL East hell but he couldn't get it done in the biggest start of his nascent career. He lasted 4.1 innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

Vladimir Guerrero (3 hits), who has found the Fountain of Youth (which probably exists wink wink in the Dominican Republic), put the O's up 1-0 in the first with an RBI double.

As always this special season for him, Jacoby Ellsbury put Boston on his back with a two-run blast in the third (his 32nd of the season).

Lavarnway made it 5-1 with his first career homer, a three-run shot in the fourth.

Bedard being Bedard he immediately yielded a two-run homer to Matt Wieters (3 RBIs, 2 hits, 2 runs) in the fourth to cut it to 5-3 Red Sox.

Marco Scutaro's seventh homer of the season, a two-run poke that just got over the wall, put it back to a four-run advantage (7-3) in the sixth.

Jones had a solo shot in the sixth but Lavarnway matched him with his second of the night in the eighth to give Boston its third four-run lead of the game.

Chris Davis (2 hits) had an RBI single in the eighth and Nolan Reimold's RBI triple made it 8-6 Boston. J.J. Hardy scored in the ninth on Wieters' ground out but Papelbon shut the door for his most nerve-wracking but vital save.

New York figures to lay down to Tampa Bay one more time so Boston will need to put together its first win streak in a month if they want the season to continue. A one-game playoff for the AL Wild Card would take place on Thursday afternoon at the Trop. Ironically, the NL is in the same position with the Braves and Cardinals tied going into tomorrow's action.

Can Lester continue his dominance against Baltimore or will he get shelled yet again in September? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

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