July 29, 2011

On Baseball: Maine Day at Fenway Park honors all kinds of heroes

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON - Recognizable mascots like Slugger (Sea Dogs), Crusher (Red Claws) and Bananas (University of Maine) patrolled Fenway Park before the game.

There was a touching moment when Staff Sgt. Melissa Larson of Portland received a standing ovation while standing atop the Red Sox dugout, and a cute incident when special education teacher Janice Bigos of York cheated up about 40 feet when she threw out the first pitch.

The national anthem (by Sarah Khan from Sanford and Berwick Academy) and "God Bless America" (Jeremy Porter of Portland) were performed brilliantly.

All we needed to make Maine Day at Fenway Park complete Sunday afternoon were a couple of former Sea Dogs becoming the stars of the day.

Well, Adrian Gonzalez (Sea Dogs Class of 2002) recorded three singles, two for RBI.

But it was a trio of imports -- Tim Wakefield, Carl Crawford and Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- leading Boston to a 12-8 win over Seattle.

While Wakefield gave up 10 hits and seven runs in 6 1/3 innings, the two standing ovations he received Sunday were more for his career milestones -- namely 2,000 strikeouts and 199 wins.

"When you've done as much as he's done, it seems like every time I look up, there's something to give him an ovation (for)," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said.

Who would have thought it? Wakefield, who turns 45 next week, is now 6-3, having moved into the rotation full time after Daisuke Matsuzaka had Tommy John surgery.

Pass on your congratulations to Wakefield.

But let's not get too sentimental.

Wakefield has a 5.15 ERA and has allowed 27 runs (23 earned) in his last five starts. He is pitching in -- pun intended -- during the season, but he is not a likely candidate for the postseason roster, given the better starters in front of him and his limited bullpen abilities.

As for Saltalamacchia and Crawford, both began the season with struggles, with the spotlight especially bright on Crawford because of his seven-year, $142 million salary.

He batted .155 in April before he started to turn it around. Then came a left hamstring strain and one-month stay on the disabled list.

Since coming back last Monday, Crawford is 9 for 23 (.391).

"I actually think he's a little bit better (since coming off the DL)," Francona said. "He got a couple of hits that first game (July 18), and I think that relaxed him at the plate.

"When he was down, he worked so hard. I think he's in a good place."

Saltalamacchia, acquired in a trade with Texas last year, was a question mark when he began the season. Could he stay healthy? Would his defense hold up? And, with a .248 career batting average, could he hit well enough to not drag down this potent Boston lineup?

"Salty" has been strong, having caught 62 games, and has been solid enough behind the plate (throwing out 18 runners so far).

Offensively, after a slow start, .203 through May 13, he's hitting .259, .296 in his last 28 games.

"Been working every day on it, and I'm starting to feel good at the plate," Saltalamacchia said.

With Crawford and Saltalamacchia contributing, Boston recorded 17 hits to back up Wakefield, so he could celebrate with a victory. Wakefield has been with Boston since 1995 and has been part of some special teams. As for 2011?

"This is the best lineup I've ever played with," Wakefield said.

Boston (62-37) has won four straight, 17 of its last 20 games, and sits three games ahead of the Yankees.

MAINE DAY NOTES: Sgt. Larson was applauded during the game as part of the Red Sox "Hats off to Heroes" military recognition program. ... Bigos threw out the first pitch after winning the "Maine State Your Case" essay contest. Two runners-up were also recognized: Jennifer Paul of Pittston and Dudley Gann of Cape Elizabeth. ... The Massabesic High ROTC provided the color guard for the national anthem. ... The honorary batboy and batgirl were Curtis Forcier (Biddeford) and Emily Long (Rockport).

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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