Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: U is for…

Ugueth Urtain Urbina.

Really, it couldn’t be anyone else, could it? Generally, I try not to highlight people who have chopped up other people with machetes. I wanted to choose Bob Unglab, an infielder on the Sox teams in the beginning of the 20th century. Or Tom Umphlett, a centerfielder on the 1953 team. Or, even Urbane Pickering who manned the hot corner in 1931 and ’32. But, it had to be Urbina. When you’re the only man in MLB history with the initials UUU, you get to be on the list. We’ll just focus on the Red Sox stuff.

Urbina was the Red Sox closer during the 2001 and 2002 seasons. As you may remember, all-star closer Derek Lowe had fallen on hard times (and hard luck) during the 2001 season. His appearance in games caused fear in the Red Sox fan base. That’s not exactly what you’re looking for in a closer. So, the Sox acquired Urbina to take on that role. He ended up saving 49 games in his Red Sox career…good enough for 11th all-time. He collected 40 saves in his only full season. Not a bad result, really.

The game that always seemed to sum up Urbina’s tenure with the Sox though, was a game I was at on April 1, 2002. Opening Day. Pedro Martinez had gotten blasted in that game, giving up seven earned runs over 3+ innings. Incredibly, the Sox fought back, and the game was tied when Urbina entered the game for the top of the ninth. After getting a leadoff flyball, the next four batters went walk, single, intentional walk, sac-fly. He then struck out Vernon Wells, to end the inning. Despite the fact that he handed the Blue Jays the lead with a very poor outing, following the strikeout he left the mound with an enthusiastic fist pump. People wondered what, exactly, he was so excited about. He had just allowed the go-ahead (and eventual winning) run. Shouldn’t he have been sulking?

In any event, Urbina only lasted the one full year in Boston before moving on. On the very bright side, his role as the team closer allowed Derek Lowe to return to his role as a starter. So, without Urbina, Lowe might not have thrown his no-hitter, or won 20 games that year. That’s not nothing.

U is for Ugueth Urtain Urbina.

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