ANAHEIM -- The day started with a sense of the surreal, and its ending didn't disappoint.
The first bit of action leading into what would turn into a Red Sox' 4-3 win over the Angels, Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, came in the form of David Ortiz' proclamation that he hadn't turned a blind-eye to a homer-less streak that had stretched to 130 at-bats.
“Every day,” said Ortiz when asked how often he thinks about going without a home run this season. “Every day. Sleeping. Eating. Having breakfast. (Going to the bathroom.) It’s bad.
“Just keep on working. It’s early. I’d like to do it from the very beginning, but I know things are going to get better.”
Then came Ortiz' assertion that the news regarding Manny Ramirez' 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs "confused" the Sox DH, and it was Ortiz' opinion that his friend should give his side of the story in a public forum.
“This news here, he needs to speak out and let people know what’s up, so people understand,” Ortiz said, “because that’s another thing that gets people confused. He hasn’t said anything.”
And then, as the clubhouse emptied out, the final scene saw the game's lightning rod, agent Scott Boras, lead an entourage consisting of Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, and Jason Varitek out of the stadium for some sort of post-game bread-breaking.
As the Red Sox have found out in recent years, L.A. always brings out the adventure, and the learning. Here is what we gleaned this time around ...
VARITEK IS PLAYING HERO A LOT MORE THIS SEASON
The at-bat started with a bunt attempt, which seemed somewhat odd considering there was one out in the ninth inning, with J.D. Drew standing at first base. But there was a reason for such an offering.
"I was trying to get a runner in scoring position. I haven't had a whole lot of success off (L.A. reliever Scot) Shields. I didn't take real good swings but if you're going to give it to me, I'm going to take it," said Varitek, who was 1 for 12 against Shields coming into the at-bat.
"Jimy Williams' rule of thought, it gets you to track the ball. It ain't the first time I'm going to do it. Ain't going to be the last time."
While the bunt might not have paid immediate dividends, the swing he took on a curveball three pitches later did. Varitek took advantage of a hanging, 1-2 curveball from Shields to rifle a double into the right-center field gap, scoring J.D. Drew with the eventual game-winner.
How things have changed. This season Varitek is hitting .353 with a .706 slugging percentage in close and late situations, compared to a .156 average and a .230 slugging a season ago.
"Tek had a real good at-bat," Francona said. "Got a breaking ball up and fortunately for us, it got to the wall. This is a tough place. We've been in a lot of close games here. You start seeing that monkey jumping around and not too many times good things happen. We had the lead when we needed it at the end."
JASON BAY MIGHT BE LAST MAN STANDING
With Dustin Pedroia officially missing out on his quest to play in all 162 games this season -- getting sidelined by a strained right groin -- the lone member of the Red Sox to be still in contention for the ironman honor is Bay. The left fielder is the only Sox player who has participated in all 33 of the Red Sox' games this season.
Ortiz is also neck and neck with Pedroia, having played in 32 of the Red Sox' 33 games.
While Ortiz' tops for most games played in a regular season is 159, coming in 2005, Bay is one of the few who has gone the distance, having totaled 162 in '05 with Pittsburgh.
"I noticed [Pedroia] kept talking about it, so I said, 'You know what man, I'm not trying to toot my own horn but I've done it, and in hindsight, it's way overrated," said Bay, who would tie Tuesday night's game with an eighth-inning ground out. "It's cool to say you did it. But after having done it, there's a big difference between that and having two, three or four well-placed days off over the course of a season."
While Pedroia figures to be back in the lineup Wednesday, Ortiz left at least some doubt regarding his availability when he was plunked on the exact same spot on his left wrist that was injured last season. The good news was that the Darren Oliver fastball came with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, and closed the Sox' deficit to just a run. It was also a positive that the D.H. remained optimistic regarding his availability for Wednesday.
"I'll be fine," he said while icing the injured wrist. "I feel fine now. Sometimes you wake up sore, but hopefully not this time. I wasn't ready to get hit again."
The bad news was that Ortiz' fortune seems to be trending the wrong way, as he explained in regards to the lack of protection on the spot he got hit.
"I'll tell you what, man, that's bad luck and I'll tell you why," he said. "I've got this wrist band and it's kind of thick so I always wear it down here. But today when I was putting them on I was like, 'I'll wear them a little higher.' That (pitch) hit me right there where the wrist band was supposed to be protecting. That's what I thought about. Oh no this is not fair."
With Red Sox manager Terry Francona resisting the temptation to build on Pedroia's legendary pinch-hitting numbers (5 for 7 for his career), holding the second baseman out of the lineup until the series' second game, and Ortiz' wrist's uncertainty, it entrenches Bay in a familiar spot -- as the ironman of the team.
But in the outfielder's eyes, '05 was gratifying, as was most of '06 (during the two seasons he played in 280 straight games before finally succumbing to a hamstring injury on Aug. 13, 2006), but such feats are no longer a focus for Bay.
"In Pittsburgh we didn't have a ton of get-away games, like here when you get in at three, four or five o'clock in the morning every time," he said. "That's a little thing you would never think of. I've done it, and it's cool to say I did it, but it's not a goal."
Pedroia will have to wait until next season for another shot at 162, having played in 157 games in '08. But as long as it isn't like the eight-game absence he endured after being hit in the hand with a pitch while with Pawtucket in '06, the second baseman can stomach a little time off.
"That sucked," he said of the time off with the PawSox. "I feel like I have a responsibility to be out there. I don't want to miss anything."
THE RED SOX DID THE RUNNING THIS TIME
Going against the team in the American League that took the extra base more than any other, the Angels, the Red Sox were the ones who tried to apply the pressure Tuesday night.
Some attempts worked, others didn't.
The one that didn't pan out came in the sixth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury (who stole his 16th base of the season) attempted to score on a fly ball off the bat of Ortiz to medium left field. Juan Rivera positioned himself perfectly, and threw the ball flawlessly to catcher Jeff Mathis, who gathered himself and the ball adeptly while tagging out of Ellsbury.
It marked the first time in his major-league career that the Red Sox' speedster had been thrown out trying to advance on a sacrifice fly.
"I thought it was going to be close," Ellsbury said. "Something like that you just tip your cap. They have to be perfect. You have to go on that play. If you don't go people would be like, 'What the heck, why didn't you go?'"
The most important dash around the bases that did go the Sox' way came in the ninth inning, when J.D. Drew scored all the way from first base on Jason Varitek's double into the right-center field gap.
While Drew hasn't stolen more than four bases in any of his previous four seasons (none this year thus far), he did show the kind of burst that had people talking back in his Florida State days.
"The coach that was timing me (in the 40-yard dash back in college) was a football coach. He looked at his watch and said, 'That can't be right.' So I did it a couple more times," Drew remembered. "I can't remember the time, but I know it was a sub 4.5 (seconds). He was like, 'You've got to come out for the team.' The best 60-yard time I ran on a track was 6.28. But I'm old now. Every year you have to add a .1.
"I've always felt like anything first time home, especially in my younger days, I could run with anybody."
As for the Angels, the team with the second-most stolen bases in the majors, they only had one theft, and that came on an uncontested advance by Bobby Abreu in the ninth inning. It marked the 13th time this season Jason Varitek hasn't been allowed to make a throw on an opponent's successful steal.
The only other attempt was snuffed out when Justin Masterson stepped off the pitching rubber while Torii Hunter was already committing to heading toward second.
MASTERSON DIDN'T MEAN TO
Justin Masterson holds the single season record at San Diego State for most hit batsmen in a single season. (The second-most impressive hit batsmen mark on the Red Sox, behind Daniel Bard, who finished his collegiate career just seven shy of the all-time NCAA record.)
Home-plate umpire Jim Joyce wasn't about to factor that nugget into the equation when issuing warnings to both teams in the third inning. And the fact that Masterson's control had allowed for bases-loaded situations in each of the first two innings wasn't weighed by Joyce.
All the ump knew was that Masterson had thrown an 89 mph sinker behind the back of Torii Hunter in a game between two teams that had emptied their benches back in their last meeting, on April 12.
"I know how it looked," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I'm just telling you, it wasn't the way it looked. That's the only thing I can say. They just get put in a situation where they're trying not to let something happen. I understand it. I didn't (complain to Joyce). He gave me a good explanation."
For Masterson, who harnessed his command well enough to allow just two runs over six innings, it was the first time in his pitching career he had ever elicited a warning.
"I'll tell you, I couldn't throw a strike," Masterson said. "The looks of it were not that good. There was no intention whatsoever on that pitch behind. I left a slider up and in on him and I was trying to get through a sinker. It ends up my body is going towards home plate and my arm is about two hours behind my body. It just left behind him. I walked two guys before that. There was no intent on that. It was kind of the epitome of my early-on day of not being able to throw a ball anywhere I wanted to."
SOME GUYS AREN'T FEELING SO GOOD
Jonathan Papelbon played, Kevin Youkilis didn't. Neither felt that great.
Papelbon picked up his ninth save in as many chances, although he did let Abreu walk and get into scoring position to extend the closer's streak of allowing at least one baserunner to eight straight appearances.
But, unlike Sunday night's save in which he blew away the final three batters with overpowering stuff, Papelbon had to weather a less-than-spectuclar repertoire. His fastball uncharacteristically sat in the low 90's up until the time he finished off the game with a swing-and-miss, 94 mph heater to Hunter.
"I was just tired. The off days, man, along with the travel, it's tough," Papelbon said. "It was one of those days. I knew I didn't have my good fastball. I knew I had to try and locate and just try and compete."
Youkilis, on the other hand, didn't get a chance to compete, and won't until he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on May 20.
After taking a seemingly cautious batting practice prior to the series opener, Youkilis joined the Red Sox brass in agreeing that nursing his strained left oblique on the D.L. might be for the best. It made even more sense when considering the Sox could make the stint retroactive to May 5.
"He took B.P. and watching him take B.P., and we kind of did it quickly because he was in the last group, but it just looked like he needed to (go on the D.L.)," Francona said. "Even though this weekend is probably realistic, it looked like we were going to be rushing him and I didn't want to do that. We sat down and I think he actually agreed, so we went ahead and got Gil here."
"Gil" is Gil Velazquez, who is a major leaguer for a third time and was flown out to the West Coast Monday as insurance for Youkilis' situation. After having breakfast with his mother and step-father, the infielder was asked to hang by his hotel room in case he was to get the call.
After waiting around the hotel for the entirety of the afternoon, Velazquez finally got the call at approximately 5:30 p.m. (PST) that his services would be needed. He was thwarted somewhat by the trademark Los Angeles traffic, but did get to the park by 7:20 p.m. and was ready for action by the time the later innings arrived.
"It was quite a day," a smiling Velazquez said.