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Thursday, July 10, 2014
Holt leads rookie uprising as Sox walk off

By ESPNBoston.com


BOSTON -- Forget the birth certificates. The Red Sox all played like kids Wednesday night, won in their last at-bat and then went out for ice cream afterward -- John Farrell's treat.

Just when you thought fun had become a permanent no-show on Yawkey Way, with the Sox having lost seven of eight games on a homestand that was supposed to serve as a trampoline into contention but instead turned into a trap door, it made an after-hours appearance Wednesday night.

With the Sox seemingly headed to another dry-dock defeat -- blanked through the first seven innings by White Sox ace Chris Sale -- they burned the white flags and scored five times in their last two at-bats. Rookie Mookie Betts started a three-run, eighth-inning rally with that rare art form known as an infield double, and rookie Brock Holt singled for the first walk-off hit of his career in a 5-4 win over Chicago.

"We were able to finish it off, which is something we haven't been able to do recently," Holt said. "So it's a good feeling."

Brock Holt
Brock Holt celebrates after driving in the winning run in the Red Sox's comeback victory.
Those in the crowd of 36,218 who bought one might want to hold onto the scorecards from this affair.

This was the first time since Aug. 16, 1987, that the Sox started five rookies, not including September call-ups, in a game. The latest addition, No. 55 on your program, was 23-year-old catcher Christian Vazquez, the replacement for A.J. Pierzynski, the 37-year-old veteran whose torpid bat had made him dead weight on a roster that isn't through molting.

Holt played shortstop for the first time this season, alongside third baseman Xander Bogaerts, who might yet return to short, according to GM Ben Cherington, who said he'll leave that decision up to Farrell (Note to reader: In the 21st century, lineup decisions are never left to just the manager. If Bogie winds up back at short, more than one voice will be heard, including the GM's).

Jackie Bradley Jr. was in center, Mookie Betts was in right, and Vazquez was catching another kid, Rubby De La Rosa, who technically isn't a rookie but was appearing in just his 17th game for the Sox and his sixth this year. It was the big leagues as finishing school, which shouldn't be confused, Farrell insisted, with pulling the plug on a season that has yet to reach the All-Star break.

"We haven't conceded anything," the manager said. "The bottom line is to go out and win."

De La Rosa was pitching with an overabundance of rest, as his routine was disrupted when the Sox kept him on the big league roster in case they made a change, then sent him down to Pawtucket. After throwing back-to-back gems against the Twins and Athletics in his last two big league starts before his demotion, De La Rosa had pitched just 6 2/3 innings since June 21, in one start for the PawSox and what amounted to a one-inning tune-up on Sunday.

Maybe it was the rust, maybe it was the thunder in the White Sox bats, but De La Rosa quickly found himself down 3-0 on home runs by Cuban strongman Jose Abreu and Conor Gillaspie, who homered for the second straight night, and a fielding error by first baseman Mike Napoli, his third in less than a week's time.

When the White Sox added another run in the seventh on three straight hits off Edward Mujica, the Red Sox looked headed to their sixth straight loss against Chicago teams -- they lost three to the Cubs this past week.

Bradley Jr
Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. robs Tyler Flowers of extra bases on Wednesday night.
But even while being stymied by Sale, who didn't walk a batter and had allowed just three hits entering the eighth, the Sox had offered some resistance, at least defensively. Bradley made a spectacular diving catch in center, Vazquez cut down Dayan Viciedo attempting to advance to second on a throw home, and Jonny Gomes -- nobody's idea of a rookie -- relayed a Wall carom off his nose to Bogaerts, who threw out Alejandro De Aza at the plate, with Vazquez making a nice sweep tag.

Those headed for the exits -- understandable behavior given how lifeless the Sox have been of late -- came to rue their departure when Betts ignited a rally by beating out a hit to the hole at short, then high-tailing it to second when he realized neither Chicago middle infielder could outrace him to the bag. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez was closer to third than second, and second baseman Gordon Beckham had gone to back up the play at first.

"It was a big gamble, but Farrell says [to] be aggressive the same way I've been my whole career," Betts said.

With Betts on third and two out, White Sox manager Robin Ventura lifted Sale, and the Sox capitalized on his departure. Score one for the old guys. Dustin Pedroia singled home Betts. David Ortiz doubled home Pedroia. Gomes doubled home Ortiz. It was turn-back-the-clock night at Fenway, and the Sox were down by just a run.

Koji Uehara then blasted through the top of the ninth and struck out the side, and Betts turned instigator again in reaching first when he was hit by a pitch from reliever Javy Guerra. Vazquez was due to bat next, but Farrell opted to forgo the storybook ending and sent up pinch-hitter Daniel Nava instead. Nava doubled home Betts, Holt punched a single to right that scored Nava with the game-winner, and the Sox piled out of their dugout just like school kids when the day's final bell rings.

Fun. What a concept. Come back tomorrow. With these kids around, there might be more.

Reporting from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes, Brendan Hall and the Associated Press contributed to this story.