Thursday, August 1, 2013
Takeaways: Gomes' DP, Drew's walk-off hit
By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- In 2012, August was the month when the Red Sox's season went into the toilet. In a hurry.
Few will remember that Bobby's Bashers won the final four games of July to get above .500 and were just a few games out of a wild-card spot when the calendar turned. Sure, the team was springing leaks and at each other's throats, but on the surface it looked like a unit with a pulse.
Then came a 9-20 August, which was followed up by a 7-19 September that was about as painful, for very different reasons, as the previous September.
There is absolutely nothing to indicate this current version is headed toward any kind of late-season swoon. The character the 2013 Red Sox have shown, as in Wednesday's 15-inning victory over the Seattle Mariners, simply won't allow for it.
"I've played on teams when [the other team] ties it up late and it's just like the air [goes] out of your sails right away," said left fielder Jonny Gomes, who factored heavily in the 5-4 outcome. "Not on this team."
Here are 10 takeaways from the game that put Boston in first place on Aug. 1:
"I've been waiting years to do that," Jonny Gomes said of his unassisted double play to end the top of the 15th inning.
* Gomes did not enter the game until he pinch hit for Daniel Nava in the 13th. Gomes was the third left fielder of the game for the Sox, and he made the defensive play of the contest in the 15th to stifle a Mariners' scoring chance, nabbing a sinking liner to left with two runners on and then carrying the ball all the way in to second base to double off Raul Ibanez, who had already rounded third and never even tried to retreat.
It was the old 7-unassisted double play, and Gomes was pretty proud of himself for accomplishing a first.
"With [Michael] Saunders up and [Drake] Britton [pitching], he has some velocity and that good slider. ... I was pretty sure a ball would come my way," Gomes said of his mindset after Seattle got runners to first and second with one out. "When he got to two strikes, thought he was kind of, just try to bloop one in. He got a fastball and it stayed up long enough and like I said, do or die."
Gomes could have thrown the ball in to double off Ibanez immediately. Instead, he glanced at the Mariners' runner, tucked the ball away and jogged to second base to end the inning.
"As a fan of the game, history of the game, a numbers guy, it definitely was on purpose," he joked about recording the play unassisted. "I've been waiting years to do that.
"Never had one, never seen one, that's why I was happy to get one on my resume."
* Without Gomes' play, Stephen Drew's heroics might not have come to fruition. Drew stepped up with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 15th and worked the count to 2-1 before lining a shot that found dirt just inside the right-field foul line to win the game.
Within seconds, teammates had ripped the jersey off Drew's back in a scene that has become all-too-familiar at Fenway Park this year.
"It's huge. It's just huge to get a win out of this type of a game," said Drew, who added that he knew the ball was going to land fair the moment he hit it.
* Boston leads the majors in walk-off wins with 10, which is the club's most in a season since 1996 (also 10) and is tied for the organization's most before August, matching the 1918 and 1930 clubs. It was the team's longest game since a 17-inning contest against Baltimore on May 6, 2012.
* In a game that featured 89 outs, 28 hits, 10 walks, 26 strikeouts and 448 pitches thrown by 12 pitchers, many plays can be forgotten. It's important to remember one from the top of the 11th, also executed by Drew.
With a man on first and one out, Michael Morse hit a chopper behind the mound. Drew charged and fielded and had momentum and loads of opportunity to get the second out at first base. To the surprise of many on hand, he flipped the ball almost behind him to Dustin Pedroia at second base to get a close out there. Jerry Meals, the umpire at the center of Monday night's controversy, made the call, much to the chagrin of Seattle's bench.
It was a calculated risk that Drew was willing to take.
"Right when I grabbed it, my thought is, 'go ahead and get him out [because] even with two outs a single scores him,'" Drew said. "I think Saunders was coming up and believe it or not, he got a hit after that, so it worked out. Close play but he was still out."
* Prior to Drew's walk-off hit, Boston's best chance to score the game-winner came in the 14th, when Brandon Snyder snapped seven innings of hitless ball for the Sox with a leadoff double. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and tried to dash home on Shane Victorino's fly to center, but was cut down easily at the plate on a great throw by Saunders.
Unlike the controversial play at the plate involving Nava on Monday, this one was cut-and-dry.
"In that situation he didn't give me a choice," Snyder said, referencing whether he should have slid or tried to run over catcher Humberto Quintero. "The ball beat me."
By a lot.
* Somewhat forgotten was another solid outing by John Lackey, who allowed three runs in seven innings. It was Lackey's team-leading 13th quality start and the 15th time in 19 starts that he has surrendered three earned runs or less.
Lackey got his fair share of boos in 2011 as he contributed to the team-wide collapse, but he has turned Fenway Park into a comfort zone, posting a 2.15 ERA in eight home starts in 2013.
* Junichi Tazawa's recent struggles continued when he served up a game-tying solo homer to Kyle Seager in the eighth, but the bullpen was marvelous from that point on. Koji Uehara threw 17 of his 19 pitches for strikes in two perfect innings, and both Matt Thornton and Craig Breslow wiggled out of some jams before Drake Britton threw two scoreless frames to pick up his first career win.
Britton has thrown eight scoreless innings since joining the Red Sox.
"What Koji, Bres, Drake Britton and certainly Matt Thornton did, just an outstanding job on their part," manager John Farrell said.
* On the heels of a slump that qualified as a pretty severe one by his standards, Pedroia has now recorded three RBIs in consecutive games for the first time in his career. His leadoff walk in the 15th ignited the game-winning rally, and the moment he took ball four the energy level in Fenway increased greatly.
"We somehow find some energy late in the game," Farrell said. "It's been many different guys that have been the reason for the walk-off. I can tell you, the conversation each time we're at the plate in extra innings, we're looking for something to draw energy from to make one last push and we were able to do that here again tonight."
Pedroia was eventually able to stroll home with the winning run.
* With Jake Peavy arriving Thursday and the bullpen pretty worn out, moves are forthcoming. Brandon Workman is in the bullpen now but not available until Saturday. Britton threw 35 pitches, Breslow 30 and Uehara two innings.
"We've got some moves to make," Farrell said. "The need for multi-innings [in the bullpen]. Peavy's arrival. We've got a couple of decisions we've got to make here tonight."
Those will all be announced Thursday afternoon when the Sox and Mariners prepare for their season and series finale. It'll be the first game in August, which has the look of a much more pleasant one for the Red Sox than 2012.