The Red Sox have come back from the dead. They are 13-5 since David Ortiz called a players-only meeting May 11, even managing to get above .500 for the first time this season after a 6-3 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night.
You can’t put together a run like that without your top hitters producing. On Wednesday night, the Sox had very little going off Drew Smyly until Adrian Gonzalez smacked a two-out ground-rule double in the fourth. Ortiz followed with his 12th homer of the season, Kevin Youkilis added a single and Will Middlebrooks smacked a two-run shot of his own.
It was an impressive showing from the heart of the order. Yet, if you were going to choose a poster child for the upstart Red Sox, it wouldn’t be one of their top stars. It would be a player or pitcher who epitomizes the “all hands on deck” attitude the Sox have shown in light of an incredibly long list of injured players.
Daniel Nava would be a good choice. Nava didn’t make his college team and went on to play in the Independent League before getting a shot at playing pro. He shocked Red Sox Nation, and the entire baseball world, by becoming the second player in MLB history to hit a grand slam on the first big league pitch he saw.
Yet Nava was a forgotten man in 2011, spending the entire season in Pawtucket. He was not invited to the big league camp but kept plugging away. On Tuesday night, he faced Justin Verlander in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Incredibly, Nava battled off a 100 mph fastball and drove in three runs with a double. It was the biggest hit of the game and finally gave him an at-bat to rival the grand slam in 2010.
If Nava has a kindred spirit on this team, it’s Scott Atchison. Until 2010, Atchison had spent 11 seasons in professional baseball and had thrown 37.1 innings in the big leagues. He spent two years in Japan before finally returning to The Show with the Sox in 2010. He was also not invited to big league camp this season but came back and earned a spot on the roster nonetheless.
Entering Wednesday night’s game, Atchison led the league with 29.1 innings in relief and also led all MLB relievers by pitching at least two innings in relief nine different times.
The Sox have been trying to figure out how to survive without Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Cody Ross and other outfielders on the disabled list. Nava’s .912 OPS (entering Wednesday night’s game) has helped them do that.
They’ve also had to adjust without the pitchers expected to be their closer (Andrew Bailey on the DL) and key setup man (Mark Melancon in Pawtucket). Atchison’s 0.92 ERA over 29.1 innings has helped them to do that, too.
Nava and Atchison — two good choices if you’re looking for guys who best represent this team’s comeback from a 4-10 start.