Snyder unsung hero against Cleveland

Snyder unsung hero against Cleveland

BOSTON -- David Ortiz's walk-off three-run homer on Monday night never happened. The Red Sox did not beat the Indians 9-8 and the Yankees are now tied with Boston for first place in the American League East.

Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek have been injured in the past two days, the trade deadline has passed with the Red Sox making no significant additions and Red Sox Nation is in a frenzy. All of this is probably true if not for the bullpen heroics of Kyle Snyder, who pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings, fanned six and issued only one hit to get the win in relief over Cleveland.

"This is the most important performance to me personally that I've ever been a part of it. I can't describe the feeling," Snyder said. "It's overwhelming to be able to come back and for me to keep the team in the game and to be able to come back with a 'W' like that and to watch David Ortiz do what he does ... it's totally beyond me. The way the game ended, it's one of the better feelings I've ever had, for sure, in my career."

The mound at Fenway Park on Monday was supposed to belong to a bald, husky southpaw, not a curly blonde righty whose body seems allergic to fat.

After the struggles of David Wells, in his first start in two months, amounted to eight runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings, Snyder emerged from the bullpen a day early. Slated to be Tuesday's starter, Snyder was Monday's savior.

"We always talk about with the relievers in a game like that where it's starting to get out of hand and you're giving up a lot of runs and you just come in and put up a zero whenever your name is called out of the bullpen," catcher Doug Mirabelli said. "We have some good hitters on this team, and if you can keep the score as is when you come in, we have good chance of giving it a fighting shot in coming back.

"For him to go out and throw 4 1/3 innings and not give up but one hit and no runs, that's above and beyond the call of duty."

This is what Snyder envisioned when he was acquired by the first-place Red Sox on June 16. A pennant race, high-drama, walk-off home runs and glory at Fenway.

After a career of uncertainty, sparked by injuries, inconsistency and spent largely in the Minor Leagues, Snyder is looking to be an irreplaceable cog on a team where October is the only month that matters. This is a far cry from a career spent with the cellar-dwelling Kansas City Royals.

Only the most excitingly repetitious man in baseball, David Ortiz, and his endless string of walk-off home runs could overshadow the performance of Snyder. Manager Terry Francona, however, has been in baseball long enough to know the importance of his outing.

"I hope what doesn't get overlooked is what Kyle Snyder did. That was unbelievable. We talked to him last night about the possibility [of pitching]," Francona said. "We didn't want to kill our bullpen ... and he was so good about it. He said, 'I'll run down there.' And he did and he pitched so well. That's a big lift. That's part of the reason we like this team so much. The way guys do things like that."

"I told him no matter what the case was I'd be ready to go. I started the game off in the dugout with my spikes on, and he gave me the head-nod to go to the bullpen in the second inning," Snyder said. "I went out there and stayed ready and stayed prepared and I finally got the call in the fifth."

Snyder was acquired from the Royals after being placed on waivers and has alternated wins in four starts and a bullpen appearance with the Red Sox. After a loss in his last start, Monday night was a good time for him to continue the trend.

"I feel really good. They've given me an opportunity over here, and I can't say enough about that and the chances they've given me," Snyder said.

However, Snyder's journey to Boston has been far from a fairytale scenario. After making a solid start in his first outing with Boston, he was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket in favor of Jason Johnson. Snyder would wait almost a month before his next Major League start, but his patience has paid off.

"He's got good stuff, and he's not scared. He's composed out there, and he knows what he wants to do and tonight he executed almost every pitch," Mirabelli said.

With injuries to Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement, Lenny DiNardo and Keith Foulke, the value of Snyder has become immeasurable, no matter what his role is.

"I'll take the ball whenever they give it to me, whether it's out of the bullpen or starting and do whatever I can to help this team win some ballgames," said Snyder.

Championship teams need role players, whether it is Steve Kerr, Scott Brosius or Troy Brown. The building of a winner relies on a chessboard composed of several pieces that may be overshadowed by the king or queen. Monday night, Snyder put the Indians in check. Ortiz made the move for checkmate.

In the clubhouse, Snyder shared a handshake with Red Sox owner John Henry and a hug with the owner of Red Sox Nation's hearts, Ortiz. For Snyder and Boston, this piece looks like it fits just right.

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.