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by Ben Burns - 07/17/2009
One manâ€™s greatest comeback victory is anotherâ€™s worst beat.
That was the case in last Tuesdayâ€™s Red Sox-Orioles game.
Weâ€™ll go out on a limb and bet the majority of you who were invested in that game were on the Sox.
With John Smoltz on the mound, Boston was a small favorite, somewhere around -115. Baltimore countered with Rich Hill, owner of an ERA over seven and someone who the Red Sox are hitting .318 against.
As expected, they pounded Hill early, exploding out to a 9-1 lead in the fourth inning.
Smoltz, looking for his 211th career win and first in more than a year, was cruising. After being roughed up by Washington in his Boston debut, the 42-year-old veteran was sharp against the Orioles, surrendering just three hits through four innings.
Someone must of sinned and mentioned that things were looking good for the Red Sox, but thatâ€™s exactly when the betting gods decided to throw a wrench into things.
The skies opened, the tarps appeared and the umpires stopped the game.
It rained hard, hard enough to make Boston bettors nervous over the possibility that the game wouldnâ€™t resume, therefore nullifying what looked like a sure winner.
But after a 52-minute delay, the game resumed. Smoltz, however, was done.
With the ALâ€™s best bullpen, turning it over to reliever Justin Masterson with an eight-run lead in the fifth didnâ€™t seem like such a bad thing, though.
Everything stayed on course. Masterson retired the first six batters he faced, and Boston tacked on a run in the seventh to extend the lead to10-1.
The Orioles, who hadnâ€™t beat Boston all season, had never come back from a nine-run deficit, not alone in the seventh inning.
Admit it, it was about this time when you committed the ultimate gambling sin and said, â€œitâ€™s over.â€쳌
If it wasnâ€™t you, somebody did, because things fell a part in the bottom of the seventh.
After not getting the ball out of the infield in the first two innings off Masterson, Baltimore strung together five straight hits to open the seventh. Oscar Salazarâ€™s home run made it 10-5 and knocked Masterson out of the game.
But the bleeding didnâ€™t stop. The Orioles added another run to get within four. Finally, with runners on the corners and two outs, Aubrey Huff, who opened the inning with a single, lined out to second base.
The Red Sox lead had been trimmed to four, but Oriole killer Jonathan Paplebon was still available.
Boston tried to add an insurance run in the top of the eighth, but catcher George Kottaras was thrown out at the plate, trying to score on Jacoby Ellsburyâ€™s shallow single to center field.
The bottom of the eighth is where things got really ugly for Red Sox bettors. The Orioles pounded Hideki Okajima, knocking him out of the game with a run on four consecutive hits.
Baltimore cut the lead to 10-9 off of Takash Saito, forcing manager Terry Francona to reluctantly bring Papelbon into the game.
The Red Sox closer, who was a perfect 20 for 20 in save opportunities against the Orioles, struck out the first batter he faced for the second out of the inning.
But with runners at first and second, Nick Markakis smacked a two-run double to give the Orioles and improbably 11-10 lead. Markakis was previously 0 for 8 against Papelbon.
The Red Sox put runners on first and second in the ninth inning, but Jason Bay struck out swinging to end the game, the greatest comeback in Baltimoreâ€™s 65-year history and one of the worst beats in the Red Soxâ€™ 108-year history.