Darnell McDonald provided more of an impact in two at-bats last night than free agent acquisition Mike Cameron has had all season. McDonald hit a pinch-hit game tying two-run home run in the 8th inning. Then, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, he hit a game-winning wall-scraping single to help the Boston Red Sox get a much needed 7-6 come-from-behind win.
McDonald, along with outfielder Josh Reddick, was called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Pawtucket after it was announced that Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury were placed on the 15-day disabled list. Ellsbury is struggling to recover from bruised ribs sustained in a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre April 11th at Kansas City. 37-year-old Cameron, who had a case of kidney stones earlier in the week, is now sidelined with an abdominal strain, possibly a tear. While Ellsbury should be back soon, Cameron could be out several weeks, and possibly months if the injury requires surgery.
Reddick was the one to get the start in centerfield last night, but McDonald was the star of the night. 23-year-old Reddick has the higher upside, but has gotten off to a slow start at Pawtucket this season. In 9 games, Reddick was only hitting .179, but was 3-for-10 in his last two games including his first home run of the season.
31-year-old McDonald, on the other hand, has been tearing it up at Pawtucket so far, hitting .343 with 2 homers and 8 RBI through 10 games. He has never played more than 47 games in a season in the majors, however.
Boston needed a spark in the worst way. They were coming off an embarassing 4-game sweep at Fenway at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Texas Rangers came in last night and looked to further humiliate the Sox as they stole a remarkable nine bases in the first five innings, including five in the third inning alone, racing out to a 6-2 lead. The nine stolen bases allowed was the most by a Red Sox team since 1913, highlighting a glaring weakness in the run-prevention philosophy adopted by GM Theo Epstein.
Just as the season looked like it was spiraling down the drain, Josh Reddick got a gift two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning when left fielder Josh Hamilton over ran a fly ball down the line which he thought was going into the stands, making the score 6-4.
In the bottom of the eighth, McDonald pinch hit for Reddick against lefty reliever Darren Oliver and deposited a two-run homer in his first at-bat as a Boston Red Sox into the monster seats tying the game 6-6.
With two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, right-handed McDonald lifted a fly ball off righty hard-thrower Frank Francisco which grazed the wall just above the leap of Hamilton to win the game. Jonathan Papelbon, who got the win in relief, led the charge out of the dugout as Red Sox players mobbed the new hero near second base.
The win improves Boston’s record to 5-9, five and a half games back of the Yankees in the AL East. Boston fans might very well look back at the end of this season to this one game as the inspirational spark that jump-started their season. Although McDonald will most likely never have another game like he did last night, he might have rejuvenated the veterans on this team to salvage the season.