Under any circumstance, this would have been a sweet moment for Pena. But this was his first Major League home run in 2006 after spending most of the season at Triple-A posts in Columbus, Ohio, and Pawtucket, R.I. And it was the first time he's gone deep as a member of the Red Sox, the team he rooted for throughout his childhood.
"You know, I hit that ball pretty solid," Pena said. "As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone. I can't describe what I felt emotionally. I don't even remember going around the bases. It was definitely something very exciting. Knowing that my family was watching, it is very special for me."
It wasn't just a big moment for Pena but for the Red Sox as a unit. They've been battered by injuries the last few weeks and are hanging by a thread in the postseason race.
With this win, they narrowed the gap to six games behind the Twins in the American League Wild Card standings, and 5 1/2 in back of these White Sox.
"I don't care where [Pena's] from," quipped manager Terry Francona. "It was pretty special for all of us. I looked at [bench coach Brad Mills] and said, 'Somebody's got to run one out of here.' They had a lot more pitching than we did left."
But Pena's smash meant that Mike Timlin, who earned the win with a scoreless 10th, was the last pitcher Francona needed to use.
As it was, the Red Sox had to deploy a relief pitcher to start the game, and Julian Tavarez did a masterful job (6 1/3 innings, six hits, two runs, no walks, five strikeouts) stepping in for the ailing Curt Schilling.
Walking away winners
|Carlos Pena's homer to lead off the 10th inning on Monday gave the Red Sox their ninth walk-off victory this season. It was his fourth career walk-off tater, his first since June 27, 2004, when he launched a grand slam in Detroit's 9-5 victory over the Diamondbacks.|
|April 17||Mark Loretta||9th||Red Sox 7, Mariners 6|
|June 11||David Ortiz||9th||Red Sox 5, Rangers 4|
|June 24||David Ortiz||10th||Red Sox 5, Phillies 3|
|June 26||David Ortiz||12th||Red Sox 8, Phillies 7|
|July 29||David Ortiz||11th||Red Sox 7, Angels 6|
|July 31||David Ortiz||9th||Red Sox 9, Indians 8|
|Aug. 2||Mark Loretta||9th||Red Sox 6, Indians 5|
|Aug. 12||Manny Ramirez||10th||Red Sox 8, Orioles 7|
|Sept. 4||Carlos Pena||10th||Red Sox 3, White Sox 2|
"I gave a chance to my team," said Tavarez. "That was the one thing I was looking for -- give a chance to our team to score some runs and win this game."
Still, the Red Sox found themselves down to their last three outs and dominant White Sox closer Bobby Jenks looming.
Manny Ramirez, who along with Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek returned to the lineup after an extended absence, led off the ninth by walking on four pitches. Nixon grounded out, and Mike Lowell delivered what would end up being the second-biggest hit of the night, roping a double to left that one-hopped the Monster, scoring Ramirez from second to tie the game.
"Well, [Jenks] walked the first guy, and walking the first guy in this ballpark is dangerous," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "This kid has been great for us all year in that situation. He just didn't have it today."
The exact opposite was true of Tavarez, who gave the Red Sox all he could, extending to 91 pitches in his longest stint since Aug. 30, 2002.
"We did a lot of pretty good things tonight, starting with Julian," said Francona. "That's as good as you can pitch. He sank the ball, he threw his changeup, he pounded the strike zone."
It almost wasn't enough, as White Sox right-hander Jon Garland was in position to win his fifth consecutive start by giving up five hits and a run over six innings.
Things seemed effortless for Tavarez over the first six innings, as he mowed down the White Sox and kept the game scoreless.
Garland sent down 13 straight hitters after escaping a bases-loaded, two-out rally in the first, but the Red Sox touched him up a little in the sixth. Table-setters Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta started it off with singles. After Eric Hinske momentarily snuffed out the momentum by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play, Ramirez was walked intentionally. That put Nixon up in a key spot, and he delivered, lining an RBI single into right-center to break the scoreless tie.
"The one at-bat, Trot ended up getting jammed, and he had the base hit," said Francona. "It's nice to have that presence. They know who he is, and they know they need to make pitches. It just gives us a little more balanced attack."
The lead was slight, at 1-0, and it didn't last long. Jim Thome stepped up in the top of the seventh and launched a solo shot over the Monster in left to tie it at 1. That was the first blemish of an otherwise brilliant night for Tavarez.
Paul Konerko followed with a double down the line in left, and out came Francona, who brought on Manny Delcarmen in place of Tavarez.
With two outs, Joe Crede blooped a single to center -- on the ninth pitch of the at-bat -- to drive in the go-ahead run.
But it didn't stand up against Lowell's equalizer and Pena's dramatic finish. Pena was only in the game because Youkilis was hit on the left hand by a pitch in the eighth and had to exit.
"You have dreams, and this is one of them," said Pena. "Point blank, I dreamt about this and visualized it ever since I was 12 or 13, and as soon as I got to this area, the Red Sox were everything to me. Do you know how many times I have done this, like you said, in my backyard? It's amazing. It's a true story now."
As for the Red Sox themselves, they won't get carried away after one comeback win.
"We won tonight, that's what we need to do," Francona said. "We don't need to worry about 22 games down the road. We just need to show up tomorrow and beat them again."