Friday, July 11, 2014

Walk-Offs and Winning Again

The Red Sox don't win anymore but when they do, at least it's entertaining
Just when the Red Sox couldn't seem to sink any lower, just when they'd given up on this failed season and called up the kids, just when they'd become irrelevant in the middle of July and seemingly squandered all the good faith they'd recuperated with last year's improbable championship, they go out and produce back-to-back walk-off wins at Fenway Park, which has been about as hospitable to this year's Sox as your in-laws or that creepy neighbor who retrieves his morning paper in the underwear and does nothing except water his flowerbeds all day long.

Those wins in that fashion were unexpected, to say the least, if not downright improbable. The first one, Wednesday's 5-4 win over the White Sox, was especially so. Boston trailed 4-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth with deserving All-Star Chris Sale still stifling its impotent offense. Mookie Betts led off with a fluke infield double, but Sale settled down to get Christian Vazquez (making his major league debut) and Brock Holt to ground out. Once again, the Red Sox had a man in scoring position but couldn't bring him home. Surprise surprise.

Things weren't looking good for the Olde Towne Team, who at that moment had only a three percent chance of emerging with the W. But with the game well in hand and Chicago coasting to its third straight win in the series, Boston got a break. More like a gift from God, actually. Rather than let Sale face Dustin Pedroia, who by that point was 0-for-3 on the day versus Sale, White Sox skipper Robin Ventura walked out to the mound and removed his ace from the game after 107 pitches.

Sure enough, the floodgates opened. Jake Petricka came in, faced four batters, couldn't get the last out. Pedroia singled in Betts, David Ortiz doubled home Pedroia, Mike Napoli walked, and Jonny Gomes ripped a double down the left field line to plate Ortiz. And just like that, Chicago's lead had been trimmed to one. With runners on second and third, Boston was threatening to tie or even take the lead, but Javy Guerra doused the flames by retiring Mike Carp to end the inning.

The White Sox still had the lead though, which remained one after Koji Uehara struck out the side in the top of the ninth. When Guerra got Jackie Bradley, Jr. to pop out for the first out in the bottom half, the Red Sox still had just an 11 percent chance of winning the ballgame.

But that's exactly what they did. Guerra plunked Betts, who on this day was destined to ignite both of Boston's late-inning rallies. Daniel Nava, pinch-hitting for Vazquez, delivered. Nava jumped all over the second pitch he saw from Guerra and belted his first double in three weeks, scoring Betts and tying the game at four.

The score didn't stay that way for long, though, as the incredible, fantastic (insert praise here) Mr. Holt did what he's done all year, which is put the Sox on his back and carry them to victory. Holt smashed a single into right past White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham. Defensive replacement Moises Sierra field the ball, spun around and fired it towards the general vicinity of home plate. His throw sailed way up the line, bringing Tyler Flowers off the plate and allowing Nava to score easily with the winning run.

Thursday's win was a complete turnaround. This time it was Boston choking away its late lead, only to rally in extra winnings for the win to split the series. All-Star Jon Lester was in line for his tenth win after yielding one first-inning run to the White Sox in seven innings, striking out 12 and walking none along the way. The Sox had struck for three off Jose Quintana in the sixth, one on an RBI single by Bradley and two on Big Papi's 17th double of the season. When John Farrell brought in Uehara to close out the ninth, the game appeared to be over.

Except that it wasn't. This time it was the White Sox who rallied with their backs against the wall. Alexei Ramirez led off with a single, and after Paul Konerko struck out looking Ventura substituted Conor Gillaspie for Sierra. The move worked out to perfection when Gillaspie hooked Uehara's 1-0 offspeed offering around Pesky's Pole, tying the game at three apiece.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the tenth when Nava, pinch-hitting for Gomes, drew a leadoff walk against Ronald Belisario. Betts sacrificed him over to second, leading Ventura to order that Drew be intentionally walked (probably the only time Drew will get four free balls all year). With Daviid Ross running on fumes after catching ten innings, Farrell brought in a fresher Carp off the bench.

Sitting in a 2-2 count, Carp went with the pitch and slapped it to left field. Nava motored around third and headed home, getting there just ahead of Dayan Viciedo's errant throw. And with that, the Red Sox had themselves two hard-fought wins. Hopefully the Fenway Faithful enjoyed them, because cased on the team's current status as a glorified PawSox and their inability to string wins together this year, it could be a while before they win two in a row there again.

No comments:

Post a Comment