There are these kind of moments in every season. Those "remember when ..." kind of moments.
A couple of seasons ago it might have been Willie Harris throwing out Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright at home to end the game. Or Devern Hansack's five-inning no-hitter on the final game of the regular season.
Or perhaps you recall one of last year's instances, such as when Brandon Moss helped the Red Sox win their season-opener in Japan by sending the game into extra innings with a ninth-inning solo home run.
And then there is Jonathan Van Every, a player who has now officially made his mark on two successive seasons thanks to his role in the Red Sox' 6-5 win over the Indians, Wednesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
If nothing else, Van Every can stake a claim to leading off our "Five Things We Learned ..." at least once in the 2009 season, with that moment coming right now:
VAN EVERY IS ALL ABOUT THE GAME-WINNERS
This is what people scrambling to find out everything about the player who won Wednesday night's game for the Red Sox with a 10th-inning solo home run probably discovered about Van Every:
- He was born on Nov. 27, 1979 in Greenwood, Miss.
- He attended Itawamba Community College and was taken by the Cleveland Indians in the 2000 draft in the 29th round.
- He played in the Indians' organization from 2001-07, hitting 21 home runs for Single-A Kinston in '04.
- He signed with the Red Sox as a minor league free agent on Dec. 1, 2007, in large part because of his history with Sox pitching coach, and former Cleveland farm director, John Farrell, and current Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen, another past member of the Indians' front office.
- He made his major league debut on May 14, 2008, singling in his second big-league at-bat.
Now, what might have escaped your attention is that Van Every is developing a nice little trend when it comes to winning ballgames.
Walking through the dugout on the day he was brought to the Red Sox' big-league team this season, Van Every was congratulated on the walk-off grand slam he had launched for the Pawtucket two days before in his first game back from an ankle injury.
"Yeah," he said with the smile that hadn't left since crossing home plate at McCoy Stadium, "I wish they all could be like that."
As it turns out, they haven't all been like that, but the outfielder has had his fair share.
Some will remember Van Every's previous "moment" with the Red Sox, coming on the final day of the regular season last year when his single against the Yankees provided the Sox with a walk-off win.
But get a load of this: The Red Sox have won in their final at-bat in three of the four games in which Van Every has appeared this season, and the Sox have claimed victories in their final at-bat in five of the lefty hitter's 15 big-league games.
The latest? His first career home run, which just so happened to come off a change-up from his former roommate in Akron, Cleveland reliever Jensen Lewis, and completed yet another comeback win for the Sox.
And this time, while playing right field while J.D. Drew's quad heals, Van Every sprinkled some defensive magic into the equation. In the eighth inning, after the Red Sox had come back from five runs down to tie the game with three in the eighth, Van Every laid out to make a diving catch on the rubber warning track in foul ground on a Ryan Garko pop-up.
ELLSBURY CAN HIT WITH TWO STRIKES
A big reason Van Every was able to extend his string of heroics was because of Jacoby Ellsbury, whose eighth-inning, two-out single scored Jeff Bailey (who was playing while Kevin Youkilis recovered from a sore side after being hit by a pitch Tuesday night) tied the game at 5-5.
Ellsbury, who finished with three hits, has now gotten on base in 13 of his last 14 games, and leads the league with 10 stolen bases. His batting average stands at .289, while his on-base percentage is .323 (17th among regular leadoff hitters in the majors).
But what truly stood out in Ellsbury's eighth-inning at-bat was his continued ability to hit with two strikes, or in this case, on an 0-2 count. The outfielder is now 4 for 10 when putting the ball in play on 0-2 counts this season, and hitting .300 when getting to two strikes.
Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan had explained in spring training that Ellsbury's biggest challenge -- fastball recognition -- is often improved when there are two strikes. In this case the payoff was a single up the middle off an 88 mph two-seam heater from Lewis.
Ellsbury is now hitting .317 against fastballs from right-handers, after finishing with a .276 clip a year ago.
PAPELBON TAKES ANOTHER STEP
While the numbers continued to be in line with that of a premier closer, Jonathan Papelbon has pitched with some frustration this season.
Papelbon did earn his sixth save Wednesday night after pitching a scoreless 10th, but the free pass he allowed to Ben Francisco was his sixth of the season, just two shy of the reliever's total for all of last year. It also gave Papelbon his highest number of walks for any month in his career.
The closer's highest walk total for any month last season was three, coming in June. The year before it was five (April), and in 2006 his wildest month was August when he had four.
Also of some concern is the number of pitches Papelbon has thrown in his first month (212), which has him averaging 20.5 per inning pitched. This time around he needed 19 pitches to finish the job.
Papelbon's pitches per inning total is second among all big league closers, only behind Philadelphia's Brad Lidge.
Yet this time, there was some encouragement. After allowing Francisco to advance to second with one out, Papelbon pumped fastballs by both Kelly Shoppach and Grady Sizemore for swinging third strikes. Both pitches appeared to have the reliever's trademark jump at the end of their journey, something that has been missing for much of April.
Oh, and he also executed his first three pickoff throws of the season.
SMOLTZ SCALED BACK
Right-handed pitcher John Smoltz has had his rehab course backed off by a week, Red Sox manager Terry Francona told Joe Castiglione on the Red Sox Pre-Game Radio Show. Smoltz had been scheduled to throw live batting practice on Thursday as part of his progression to pitching in rehab games. However, the Sox have decided to delay that process slightly to allow the pitcher to continue to build arm strength.
“We’ve actually been going back and forth with Smoltzie. We’ve actually slowed it down about a week,” Francona said. “I don’t want to say it was built in, but I don’t think this was unrealistic to think that was going to happen.”
A FREE AGENT REMINDER
There’s little secret that most teams would, all things being equal, prefer to avoid the free-agent market. Indians G.M. Mark Shapiro once articulated a concise synopsis of his feelings on the process:
“It’s inefficient and we want to stay out of it whenever possible,” said Shapiro.
That’s not always possible, or even advisable. But on a day when both Drew (quad) and Julio Lugo (knee) — the duo that signed $106 million worth of free-agent contracts with the Sox prior to the 2007 season — are once again out of the lineup, it seems a fair moment to take stock of the impact of free agency on the current Sox club.
The Boston roster actually features surprisingly few players who were acquired through free agency. Just seven players signed with the Sox after playing in the majors with another club, and only Drew and Lugo signed multi-year deals to come to Boston. Here is a breakdown of how the Sox acquired the current members of their roster (Major League Baseball free agents in bold):
Josh Beckett - Trade (2005)
Jon Lester - Drafted (2nd round, 2002)
Justin Masterson - Drafted (2nd round, 2006)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (D.L.) - Rights purchased through posting process from Japanese club (2006)
Brad Penny - Free-agent (2008-09)
Tim Wakefield - Free agent (1995)
Manny Delcarmen - Draft (2000, 2nd round)
Hunter Jones - Undrafted free agent (2005)
Javier Lopez - Trade (2006)
Hideki Okajima - Japanese free agent (2006)
Jonathan Papelbon - Draft (2003, 4th round)
Ramon Ramirez - Trade (2008)
Takashi Saito - Free agent (2008-09)
George Kottaras - Trade (2006)
Jason Varitek - Trade (1997)
Jeff Bailey - Minor-league free agent (2003)
Nick Green - Minor-league free agent (2008)
Mike Lowell - Trade (2005)
Jed Lowrie - Draft (2005, 1st round)
Julio Lugo - Free agent (2006-07)
Dustin Pedroia - Draft (2004, 2nd round)
Kevin Youkilis - Draft (2001, 8th round)
Rocco Baldelli (D.L.) - Free agent (2008-09)
Jason Bay - Trade (2008)
J.D. Drew - Free agent (2006-07)
Jacoby Ellsbury - Draft (2005, 1st round)
Jonathan Van Every - Minor-league free agent (2007-08)
David Ortiz - Free agent (2002-03)
For more see the Full Count Blog.
Alex Speier contributed to this report.