The Boston Red Sox again have won a game against Baltimore that should have been out of reach late in the game. It's not Mother's Day again, but it's the middle of May, so I'm willing to call it another Mother's Day Miracle. This one pales slightly in comparison, but it should definitely be a motivator for the players to continue to improve their play.
The players that were the same: Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek; Orioles: Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis. So, the names have mostly changed, with of course a few exceptions. What else is different? And what else is the same?
Both games happened at Fenway Park; I'm sure this helped the Sox as the crowd was definitely going to get behind any rally, and Sox fans are relentless and willing to give their team every opportunity to win a game. They will stick around as long as it takes until there are three outs in the bottom of the ninth. It's a passion that had earned them serious heartache for 86 years until they finally won the World Series in 2004.
Gary Cederstrom and Lance Barksdale were umpires at both games; Cederstrom was at home plate and Barksdale was at second base on May 13, 2007. Cederstrom was on second base and Barksdale was on third base on May 16, 2011.
Other than some of the players being the same, not much else can be said for similarities; even most of the players are at considerably different points in their careers than four years ago. The stars of the Red Sox and Orioles from four years ago are mostly gone, many due to retirement. David Ortiz is doing about as well as he was four years ago, but he is certainly declining as he gets older. Josh Beckett is still a star of the Red Sox pitching staff, but he lost his ace status to Jon Lester (as well as the opening day starter this year). Thankfully, his blister and finger issues have seemed to have gone away. During the game in 2007, he left the game because he had a skin tear on his finger. Kevin Youkilis was batting sixth and playing third and this year he is batting clean-up, but still playing third--though it's after a couple of years playing first. Jason Varitek was behind the plate for both games, but he is a significantly different hitter than he was four years ago. He's still a fantastic catcher and calls a great game, pitchers still love having him behind the plate, but he doesn't hit anywhere near as effectively as he did years ago. He did have a very important impact on both games though. His lines from both years are similar and impressive: (4AB, 1R, 1H, 2RBI) and (5AB, 1R, 2H, 2RBI). It was sweet to see him have a positive impact at the plate because it doesn't happen anywhere near as often as I would like to see it, but I still like the captain. Both of the other Sox players had positive impacts as well in both games.
The Orioles players that were involved in both games are at decidedly different stages in their careers also, but are amazingly enough still hitting in the same batting order that they were four years ago. Why is this amazing? Brian Roberts is still an okay second baseman, but he's hitting barely above the Mendoza line at .221 this year. Why would a team continue to hit a player that is struggling so badly at the top of the order? Even the Red Sox moved Carl Crawford down in the order after a very slow start. Crawford is in the prime of his career and has always been at or near the top of the order, but the Sox moved him down to sixth to allow him to see better pitches and to try to help him out of his funk. Markakis was just starting his career as a regular starter for the Orioles four years ago, and is now a foundation piece of their young team.
The weather was considerably different for this Miracle. Four years ago, the weather was sunny and a bit chilly at 58 degrees. This year it was raining and miserable and even colder at 48 degrees. Part of the temperature difference was the time of day. Four years ago it was a day game starting at 3:10 while tonight's game was a 7:10 start.
In 2007, Jeremy Guthrie had pitched an absolute gem against the Red Sox and he was taken out in the ninth inning. This ended up being a bad decision. Guthrie had allowed only three hits and one run. In less than an inning, that would become all for naught, as the bullpen would allow six runs in the ninth to lose the game. This year's game was also becoming a gem for the Orioles starter, as Chris Tillman had allowed zero runs after five innings. Buck Showalter removed him from the game because of stiffness in his back. Mike Gonzalez would quickly allow the Red Sox to get back in the game by allowing four runs in less than an inning. The Red Sox continued to chip away at the lead until they got the two runs they needed in the bottom of the ninth inning to win. Josh Beckett had to be removed from the game in 2007 because of an injury. This year, Terry Francona may have been better served to remove Daisuke Matsuzaka after his first inning scare where he was hit just above the belt with a line drive. He pitched terribly, giving up seven walks and five runs in less than five innings.
The Baltimore Orioles had a record of 18-20 following the Mother's Day Miracle of 2007. Right now they have a record of 19-21. The team has been mediocre for quite a few years, and their place in the standings has always been near the bottom, with the exceptions of early season when they have started out hot like this year. The outcome of the game would have drastically different results for the standings for the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. In 2007, the Red Sox would have a 25-11 record to lead the division handily. Following this Mother's Day Miracle, the Red Sox have for the first time this year, gotten over .500. They are tied with Toronto for third in the division.
Games like this can allow a talented team like the Red Sox to flourish. Wins like this bring teammates closer together as they realize that their combined struggles can only be overcome by combining their talents. Adrian Gonzalez has been hitting as well, if not better, than expected this year, while players like Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford are finally starting to rebound from early season struggles. Wins like this will hopefully start the rest of the players toward better and continued success.