Lavarnway's Heroics Help Red Sox Keep Pace In Wild Card Race
Former Yale catcher Ryan Lavarnway '09 is believed to be part of the future for the Boston Red Sox. Since he was called up to the major league roster by the Boston Red Sox last month, Lavarnway has shown the Red Sox that their future might be here much sooner than they expected.
Mired in a month-long slide that has seen the Red Sox slide out of first place in the American League East into a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card with one game remaining in the season, Boston is on the verge of failing to make the playoffs for the second straight season after a run of six playoff appearances in seven years that included two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
Lavarnway began the 2011 season in Double-A Portland (Maine), where he hit .284 with 14 home runs in 55 games. Promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket (R.I.), he hit .301 with 16 home runs in 55 games before he was promoted to the major league roster.
In his first 16 games as a major leaguer, Lavarnway is hitting .265 with a pair of doubles and eight RBIs, but his most impressive performance came Tuesday night. With their season on the line, the Red Sox turned to Lavarnway to start behind the plate with catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek sidelined with injuries.
Lavarnway did more than fill in for Boston's regular catchers. He proved to be the hero for the Red Sox Tuesday night, belting the first two home runs of his major league career to lift the Red Sox to an 8-7 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Lavarnway's heroics helped the Red Sox keep pace with the Rays, who outlasted the New York Yankees with a 5-3 victory.
Lavarnway "played his [butt] off," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona told the media after Tuesday's game. "That was exciting. I thought, besides what he did offensively, I thought he ran the game. I thought he had a lot of poise. That was one of the more exciting things to watch. We've seen a lot of interesting things here over the years. That was right near the top."
Saltalamacchia was forced out of the lineup when he was hit in the shoulder with a foul tip that injured his right collarbone. Varitek was hit by a pitch on his right knee in Sunday night's game against the Yankees. He tried to return to the lineup on Monday, but he was too sore. Enter Lavarnway, who was ready to showcase his talents on the biggest stage in baseball.
On a 3-2 pitch from Baltimore left-hander Zach Britton, Lavarnway drove a 94 mph fastball over the left-field wall for his first career homer, driving in Red Sox stars Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz to give the Red Sox a 5-1 lead with one out in the fourth inning. With Boston on top 7-4 in the eighth inning, Lavarnway belted a solo home run for what proved to be the winning run, giving Boston an 8-4 lead. Baltimore scored three more runs and had the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon closed out the game for his 31st save of the season.
"It definitely feels good," Lavarnway said to the media after Tuesday's game. "It feels like I could wear the jersey with pride, especially a little bit more now that I've helped out and am contributing. That's what I wanted to do when I got here. I didn't want to just have a September call-up that was meaningless. I'm glad I could help today."
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity