The headline series in Interleague Play for the weekend is the LA Dodgers visiting Boston. Former slugger Manny Ramirez returned to Fenway Park on Friday night for the first time since being traded to the Dodgers. No one was sure of how the Red Sox fans would react to one of their greatest sluggers returning since he left Boston on bad terms. Dodgers manager Joe Torre made sure to start him at DH instead of sending him out to his customary left field. It wasn’t until the second inning that Manny came to the plate and for the most part, fans were cheering and giving him a standing ovation.
Making his Major League debut for the Red Sox was starting pitcher Felix Doubront. He showed no signs of nervousness as he got Manny to fly out to center field on one pitch. The Red Sox had scored three runs in the first inning off Dodgers rookie starter Carlos Monasterios, capped by homeruns from David Ortiz and JD Drew. Manny would collect a hit against Doubront in the sixth inning as he allowed two runs in that inning before being relieved. However the Red Sox had just scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Red Sox bullpen would hold onto the lead, despite scoring a run in the ninth (Manny struck out looking to end the game with two men on base). Doubront won his first Major League start 10-6 as he allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits in five plus innings.
The other storyline Friday night was Stephen Strasburg making his third start (second in Washington) of the season against the Chicago White Sox. The speed at the top of the White Sox order got to him in the first inning. Juan Pierre beat out a ground ball to first base (because Strasburg did not hustle to cover the bag) and Omar Vizquel hit a double to put runners at second and third. Alex Rios would produce an RBI ground out, but Strasburg would strike out Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin to end the inning. Strasburg would cruise from there as he struck out ten in seven innings of work (he only allowed four hits and did not walk a batter). He set the record for most strikeouts in a pitcher’s first three starts. White Sox starter Gavin Floyd was just as sharp as he only allowed four hits in eight innings and only allowed a single run in the seventh on an Adam Dunn two-out RBI double.
The game would stay tied until the 11th with rookie Drew Storen in for his second inning of relief. With a runner on third and two outs, Rios hit a ground ball down the third base line that Ryan Zimmerman made a great play on. However the ball sailed just over the head of Dunn at first base and the go-ahead run scored. Storen received his first Major League loss as White Sox closer Bobby Jenks retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the 11th on just nine pitches.
Brian Matusz of the Baltimore Orioles returned to San Diego (he pitched for the University of San Diego in 2008) to start against the Padres. He pitched well, allowing just one run on six hits in six innings. Padres starter Wade LeBlanc was just as good as he only allowed a run on seven hits in 6.2 innings. The Orioles scored a run off the Padres Heath Bell in the top of the ninth inning on a Julio Lugo two-out hit that Scott Hairston just missed.
In the bottom of the ninth, Orioles closer Dave Hernandez walked the first batter he faced (Chase Headley) on four pitches and then Jerry Hairston and Aaron Cunningham followed with singles to load the bases (Cunningham’s was a bunt base hit that the Orioles could not make a play on). After getting pinch-hitter Nick Hundley to strike out, David Eckstein followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 2-2. Tony Gwynn grounded into a force out and up came Adrian Gonzalez. The Orioles had left-hander Mark Hendrickson ready, but manager Juan Samuel stayed with Hernandez, who allowed an RBI single to Gonzalez on the first pitch for the game winner. It was their 8th walk-off hit of the season (tops in MLB).