Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 2, Rays 1 (10)
April, 13, 2013
By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- Although it took an extra day for them to play, the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays put together a well-played, entertaining nail-biter Saturday with aces Jon Lester and David Price giving fans the duel they had hoped for.
The Sox, such a pitiful team when games went to extra innings last year (2-10), used a Jacoby Ellsbury single, an error on his stolen base attempt and an infield hit by Shane Victorino (against a five-man infield) to make it a memorable 2-1 victory for 33,000-plus at Fenway Park.
The walk-off rally somewhat overshadows the effort by Lester, who gave up a run on five hits in seven innings. Price gave up a run in six frames.
Boston has won the first game in all four series this season. Here's some of what took place along the way:
Climbing the ladder: With a strikeout of Evan Longoria in the third inning, Lester moved into sixth place on the Red Sox's career strikeout list, surpassing Luis Tiant. Lester finished the game with 1,078 career K's, now 30 shy of Josh Beckett and 263 behind Cy Young on the franchise list.
Those are just a few of the big names that Lester will be flirting with in the immediate future. He remains a win shy of tying Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Hurst on the career wins list, tied Lefty Grove on Saturday with his 190th career start for Boston and will have a chance to leap ahead of Babe Ruth on the innings list in his next start.
Oh, U: We may have an update on some broken hands suffered in the Red Sox dugout after the top of the ninth inning, all victim of Koji Uehara's exuberance. Uehara delivered a string of emphatic high-fives after coming on to clean up Joel Hanrahan's mess.
After Hanrahan walked the only two men he faced, Uehara got a strikeout and two weak outs in the air to rescue the Sox and firmly throw his name into the discussion of closer candidates should John Farrell elect to give Hanrahan a break.
Andrew Bailey worked an effortless eighth. He is also firmly embedded in any debate over who should finish games for Boston, a debate that will rage until Hanrahan can straighten himself out.
Uehara has recorded 19 straight scoreless outings. Bailey has yet to be scored upon in 2013. Hanrahan has walked four and given up six runs in his last 1 2/3 innings. You make the call.
Time to right the ship: Boston entered Saturday hitting .218 (24-for-110) with one home run against left-handers and just .184 (16-for-87) since it chased CC Sabathia after five innings in the first game of the season. Those numbers did not improve against Price and a pair of lefties out of the pen.
A .291-hitting bunch against righties, the Sox should feel a bit more comfortable at the plate in the immediate future. The Rays start two right-handers to close out this series, and Cleveland will probably have three righties going Tuesday through Thursday. After that, Kansas City, which like the Indians has nothing but right-handers in its rotation, comes to town.
It's likely Boston will face eight straight right-handers before Oakland, with two southpaws in its rotation, visits April 22. Expect to see plenty of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and maybe some Jackie Bradley Jr. in left before he gets a possible demotion upon David Ortiz's return.
Ross to the rescue: Among a handful of well-received imports for the Red Sox this season has been backup catcher David Ross, whose personality and veteran know-how have helped improve the atmosphere around the club. On Saturday, for the first time, Ross took a more central role in the team's mission with a solo homer off Price in the fifth, a solid partnership with Lester and an effective bullpen (Hanrahan notwithstanding) and a marvelous catch leaning into the first row near the backstop to make a snag that ended the top of the eighth.
Boston pitchers have a 2.57 ERA when pitching to Ross, and he has plenty of pop. It's high time we consider this under-the-radar signing as one of Ben Cherington's best of the offseason.
Lucky leather: The metrics that have redefined how we look at defense in baseball cannot always take into account the many fluky plays that are seen on a baseball field. Two of the flukiest have taken place in back-to-back games, both of them giving the Sox a little bump in their overall numbers.
There was the 3-5-3 putout Thursday night when a rocket hit off Mike Napoli and bounced to Will Middlebrooks, who was on the right side in a defensive shift and able to make the scoop and throw to Napoli in time. Saturday's oddity came on the first batter of the game, Desmond Jennings, who lined a shot that was redirected off the glove of Middlebrooks and right into the waiting glove of Stephen Drew.
We've seen guys catch popups or fly balls off of a teammate's glove before (think Pete Rose and Bob Boone in the 1980 World Series). Not often that you see a liner hit one glove, maintain a good head of steam and cover several more feet before landing in another. Almost like a rock skipping across a calm pond.
Up next: The Sox turn to Clay Buchholz on Sunday in an effort to extend an impressive streak by their starters. With Lester's gem, Boston's rotation has allowed three runs or fewer in 10 straight games, its longest streak to begin a season. Ever.