BOSTON -- Lost in the shuffle of the offense’s recent surge, the Red Sox defense has been making highlight reel plays on a regular basis.
Thursday night’s game against Toronto was no exception.
The Red Sox made several key defensive plays in their 7-4 win over the Blue Jays, each playing a part in helping struggling starter Jon Lester secure a much-needed win.
“[Those types of plays] make it a lot easier on you as a pitcher,” Lester said.
The most important of them all came late in the game. In the midst of an eighth-inning Toronto rally, reliever Junichi Tazawa was brought in with two runners on and a 3-and-0 count to Blue Jays second baseman Emilio Bonifacio (due to Lester exiting with a hip injury). After a walk and two run-scoring outs from Toronto, Encarnacion lined a breaking ball to left fielder Daniel Nava. With the left field wall looming behind him, Nava leaped into the air to snag the liner, stranding Bonifacio at third and ending what could have been a comeback inning for the Blue Jays.
“I thought I was closer to the wall than I really was,” Nava said. “It was just one of those plays that I read it going one way and it didn’t go as far as I thought, [but] I ended up with the ball in my glove. That’s all that matters.”
Although Nava admitted it wasn’t as pretty as he would have liked it to be, being able to bail Tazawa out of the inning was the only thing he was focused on during the play.
“You obviously want to pick your pitcher up anytime that they’re grinding and put into a situation where it’s just a tough one, so to get us out of the inning was obviously first and foremost on everybody’s mind,” he said.
Leading off the inning, speedster Jose Reyes hit a broken-bat grounder toward shortstop. Drew charged the ball, making a barehanded play to get the out at first.
“Stephen made a great play on that ball, even on a bum ankle Reyes got down the line pretty good,” Lester explained. “That was big.”
Following a walk to Jose Bautista, Lester was able to get another ground ball, this time off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, that made its way back toward Drew. With the defense shading toward left on the pull-happy Encarnacion, Pedroia, while taking the feed from Drew, rushed over to the second base bag from short before firing a strike to first while on the move to turn an inning-ending double play. Unorthodox, yes, but it got the job done.
“It’s tough. We’re kind of playing an overshift and Stephen led me there so it’s kind of a tough position,” said Pedroia. “But we were able to make the play.”
Kyle Brasseur is an ESPNBoston.com contributor.