Down 10-1 in the bottom of the seventh tonight, the Baltimore Orioles came back with five-spots in the seventh and eighth innings to beat the Red Sox, 11-10. Late in the game, a graphic flashed up that it was the first time Boston had led by nine runs and lost since June 4, 1989 against Toronto. Immediately, I remembered the game, and a quick search of Baseball-Reference.com confirmed my suspicions that the game, and the entire weekend, belonged to Junior Felix.
Felix, a 21-year-old rookie outfielder who I always manage to confuse with Felix Jose, had made his major league debut the month before, homering on the first pitch he saw from Kirk McCaskill. When the Blue Jays came to Boston on June 2, Felix was scuffling, with two homers, ten RBI, and a .255 batting average. He had also displayed a startling propensity for striking out (21 in 94 at-bats) and below-average base-stealing ability (five steals in eight tries).
A little Red Sox pitching was all he needed to get rolling. In the first game of the series, he went 2-for-4 with three runs scored. One of the hits was a ninth inning inside-the-park grand slam off Bob Stanley that turned a tight 3-2 game into a more relaxing 7-2 contest. The next day, he went 3-for-5 with four RBI in a 10-2 Toronto win.
Sunday was the game I remembered. The Red Sox jumped out to an early 10-0 lead behind Mike Smithson, who allowed two runs on four hits in six innings. In the seventh and eighth innings, however, Toronto started mounting a comeback, scoring six times against Smithson and Stanley. The barrage continued into the ninth, through pitchers Rob Murphy, Lee Smith, and Dennis Lamp, and didn’t end until the Blue Jays held an 11-10 lead.
Boston manufactured a run in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings. It stayed 11-11 until the top of the 12th, when Tom Lawless singled and Felix followed with his second homerun of the series. Duane Ward shut down Wade Boggs, Sam Horn, and Randy Kutcher in the ninth to close it out. Felix finished the game 3-for-7 with a run scored and three RBI.
Felix’s totals for the weekend: 8-for-16, two homeruns, four runs scored, eleven batted in. He had some good games here and there the rest of the season, but nothing quite like that three day stretch of excellence.