The only practice the Red Sox had was when Jonathan Arauz hit a walk-off home run in an intrasquad scrimmage three weeks or so before. But that couldn't really prepare them for the moment at Fenway Park Sunday afternoon.
With two outs in the ninth inning in the Sox' series finale against the Blue Jays, Mitch Moreland lofted his second home run of the game over the left-field wall, breaking a 3-3 tie and handing Ron Roenicke's team its first walk-off win of the year.
But while the Sox had come to grips with executing socially-distant celebrations for regular home runs, this was a whole new challenge. It was, let's just say, a bit awkward.
"Yeah, I’m pretty sure we broke a few rules," Moreland said. "I felt some guys patting me, some guys, I’m not going to say who, but some guys might have been hugging me, you know, stuff like that. Obviously got the ice bath, so maybe that killed all of it, washed the germs off."
"Seeing everyone else react to it, you’re not supposed to be within six feet, air-high-fives, things like that," said Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. "But a win is a win, especially for it to come at that time. And for it to come at a time like that, it’s a great win for us."
Moreland's path to actually seeing the plate appearances in the ninth was interesting enough.
In the seventh inning with Blue Jays left-hander Ryan Borucki on the mound, Roenicke chose to stick with Moreland after almost exclusively hitting him against righties this season. Coming into Sunday, the first baseman only had five at-bats vs. southpaws.
And while Moreland ended up striking out against Borucki, it did allow him to get that final at-bat against Toronto righty Thomas Hatch in the ninth after Xander Bogaerts extended the inning with a two-out walk.
"I know we had a decision to make in his at-bat before of whether we let him face the lefty or not," Roenicke said. "Actually, (hitting coach) Tim Hyers and (bench coach) Jerry (Narron) said, ‘Yes.’ Whether it’s the ninth or 10th inning we want him up there again."
"I knew that the lefty yesterday went two-plus, maybe three, somewhere in there," Moreland added. "I knew Borucki was the only guy they had in the pen and he wasn’t going to roll around until the next time I hit. I was thinking along those same lines, hoping they were too, happy they were, able to come up big there the next inning."
There was another issue at play: Due to the new extra-inning rule if Moreland made the last out in the ninth he was going to be forced to be the runner to start at second in the 10th.