Salty shreds Rays with dramatic walk-off homer

Salty shreds Rays with dramatic walk-off homer

Salty shreds Rays with dramatic walk-off homer
BOSTON -- The shredder, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia would call it after his thrilling two-run walk-off home run on Saturday night, had been gathering mothballs.

But as Saltalamacchia finished off the most enjoyable home run trot of his career, it resurfaced in a big way as the Red Sox came back to beat the Rays, 3-2.

Called on as a pinch-hitter by manager Bobby Valentine with the Red Sox down 2-1 with one out in the ninth, Saltalamacchia turned on a 0-1 heater from nasty Rays closer Fernando Rodney and deposited it into the bleachers beyond the Boston bullpen in right-center.

Not only was it the first walk-off home run of Saltalamacchia's career, it was the first walk-off win of any kind for the 2012 Red Sox.

"Well, obviously tonight was awesome. I met the shredder for the first time," Saltalamacchia said.

The shredder is what the Red Sox call the mob of players who jump all over the walk-off hero.

"Well, the shredder got me good," Saltalamacchia said. "It got my shirt and my necklace. He got it all tonight. That's a great feeling."

Sitting on the bench for eight innings and going deep against Rodney is no easy feat.

"He's obviously a great pitcher," said Saltalamacchia. "Last time I faced him, he pumped fastballs right by me, so I knew I had to be ready. [Daniel] Nava did an unbelievable job getting on base and it just kind of trickled from there. [Nick] Punto did a good job of getting him over and I was just looking for a fastball and was able to get a fastball over the middle of the plate and do something with it."

Yes, it was Nava who put the rally in motion with a leadoff walk, and that was fitting. He made a decision he regretted in the seventh inning, throwing to the plate when Ben Zobrist tied the game on a sacrifice fly. Nava didn't seem to have a play at the plate, and his decision to throw home allowed Matt Joyce to tag at first and move to second. Joyce wound up scoring the go-ahead run on an RBI single by Luke Scott.

"Fortunately Salty got us the win, and that play kind of got erased, but in the same sense, I've got to learn from that," Nava said. "That's just huge, that's just a defensive play which changes the outcome of the game. I gave him a big hug [and said], 'Thank God you hit that home run.'"

That's the type of team the Red Sox think they are developing, where players pick each other up. They've fought through a tough start and injuries and are at .500.

A win like this one -- coming off an emotional loss like the one on Friday -- could help galvanize the Red Sox.

For a while, it looked like Josh Beckett was going to come up on the short end of a riveting pitchers' duel with Rays ace David Price.

"It was funny," said Valentine. "I looked at [bench coach] Tim Bogar when the inning started, and I said, 'We haven't had a walk-off all year.' He said, 'It's a great day for it. Let's do it.' Salty did. Great at-bat by Daniel Nava -- walking. He's been hitting really well, to lead off the inning, getting on base, and a perfect bunt and a big home run. It went a long way, didn't it?"

Saltalamacchia mauled the ball several rows deep over Boston's bullpen.

"To square that pitch up right there is pretty impressive," said Saltalamacchia.

Perhaps spending time with Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk during the pregame ceremony rubbed off on Saltalamacchia.

"It was awesome," Saltalamacchia said. "I started thinking about it, because when they showed the home run [from Game 6 of the 1975 World Series], I was just messing with him, saying, 'Stay fair.' I said, 'Do you still get goose bumps with that one?' He was like, 'I wake up sometimes and I still feel that ball going off the bat and I just feel the whole thing. I can't forget get swing.' So tonight when I hit that ball, I kind of felt the same way. I'm not going to forget."

As for the rest of the game, there were no lingering effects from the bench-clearing incident that took place Friday.

Beckett was marvelous for most of the night, giving up four hits and two runs over seven innings. The righty walked none and struck out five, throwing 91 pitches.

"That was awesome," Beckett said. "That's a better way to win anyway. If I get a no-decision the rest of my starts this year, it's not that big a deal if we win them all like that."

The first five innings were everything you'd expect from a Beckett-Price matchup, as neither pitcher gave up a run.

Price cracked first -- ever so slightly. Will Middlebrooks ripped an RBI single off the glove of second baseman Sean Rodriguez and into center, bringing home David Ortiz to give Boston a 1-0 lead.

"I was really just trying to set up on the middle, because sometimes he likes to throw offspeed in those counts with runners in scoring position. So I wasn't trying to do too much so that if he hung an offspeed pitch I could put a good swing on it," Middlebrooks said.

The Rays rallied back to take the lead, but it didn't hold -- thanks to Saltalamacchia.

"Shoot, he's a big strong boy," said Saltalamacchia's backup, Kelly Shoppach. "Any time he's at the plate he's got a chance to get one out."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.