Nixon had also sat against Tom Glavine on Thursday, but that was apparently more because of illness than Glavine's left-handedness. Nixon must have felt a little better last night, since he pinch-hit against lefty Dontrelle Willis in the fifth inning. Anyway, an extra day of (mostly) rest couldn't have hurt.
And considering the pitching match-up, it was a good time to give Ortiz a much-needed breather. Not that I thought Tito was conceding a loss (although it has seemed that way in the middle of some games this year), but if the odds are against Boston winning the game -- and with Jason Johnson facing Willis, I'd have to say they were -- that's the right night to sit the Big Fellow. (And he was able to bat when needed.)
I was also wondering if Francona should pull Johnson in the second inning before he allowed the 5-0 deficit to get out of hand. Francona must have gambled that Johnson would get his act together -- and he did (although if the score had ballooned to something like 8-0, he would have yanked him). And the back-end of the pen was able to pitch the final four innings.
Johnson admitted to feeling a bit nervous last night:
I had a lot of adrenaline going the first couple innings, my first start with Boston and stuff. I was trying to go out there and impress guys, trying to throw a little too hard, falling off the mound a little bit. ... Over the last two innings, I settled down and threw the ball where I wanted. ... I'm just going to go out there five days from now and pitch against Tampa and work at getting the ball down right off the bat.Wily Mo Pena went 1-for-3 in his first rehab game with Lowell (A) and is expected back with the Red Sox after the All-Star break. ... Matt Clement will pitch in a Gulf Coast League game in the next few days. ... David Wells has done some light throwing in San Diego and will meet the team next week in Tampa. ... Palm Beach Post article on Mike Lowell and his rebirth in Boston.
Willis, on the ovations for Boston's two ex-Marlins:
I was really happy for [Lowell]. I stepped off [the mound] for Gonzo as well. Great guys, great ballplayers. They're the reason why I am the player I am today. I have a lot of respect for them. They got a couple of hits off me, so I'll be expecting that check to my house soon.