BOSTON — Terry Francona got the first laugh of the series. The Red Sox got the last.
The Red Sox capped off a memorable weekend against Francona’s Indians with the ultimate display of resilience on Sunday. Boston scored four runs in the ninth inning to overcome a three-run deficit and earn a 6-5 win.
“This team loves to compete,” manager John Farrell said. “We helped their cause a little bit today with some outfield defense. They were able to benefit on a couple of two-strike pitches that didn’t get to the spot for a two-run base hit by [Carlos] Santana and the home run by [Jason] Kipnis, but until that 27th out is record, this team doesn’t roll over by any means.”
This year’s Red Sox don’t just refuse to roll over. They spring into action when faced with adversity.
The Red Sox, who trailed by as many as four runs in the eighth inning on Sunday, went to work in the ninth against Indians closer Chris Perez trailing by three runs. The deficit wasn’t insurmountable, but Boston’s bats were held in check for much of the day, so a rally seemed unlikely.
The whole complexion of the ninth inning, and the game, changed in a hurry, though. Dustin Pedroia worked a leadoff walk, and David Ortiz brought the tying run to the plate by doubling over the head of center fielder Michael Bourn. At that point, it was clear that the Red Sox weren’t going to go quietly.
“I think the biggest thing is we didn’t abandon the plan,” Farrell said of the comeback. “We continued to stay with I think a pretty strict strike zone. Perez threw a number of quality pitches that were just off the edge. We were able to bunch some hits and the three walks combined, but when David [Ortiz] hits the double, we felt like we had life in the ninth inning, but certainly it elevated it a notch or two.”
Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought the Red Sox to within one run, but their pair of RBI groundouts also meant that the Indians were within one out of escaping Fenway Park with a series split. It didn’t matter. The Red Sox again came out of the corner punching.
Jonny Gomes followed up Saltalamacchia’s RBI groundout with a five-pitch walk to kickstart the second leg of Boston’s ninth-inning rally. Stephen Drew then sent Gomes from first to third with a single into right field — Drew’s third hit of the game after entering in the midst of an 0-for-17 slump. Drew scampered up to second base on a pitch in the dirt with Jose Iglesias batting, and Iglesias — playing in just his third game since returning to the majors — put together a crucial at-bat that ended with a seven-pitch walk.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been the subject of scrutiny countless times already this season, walked up to the plate to face Perez with the bases loaded. In the middle of the at-bat, Perez left with an injury, but even a pitching change couldn’t save the Indians by that point. Ellsbury knocked the first pitch he saw from the new pitcher, Joe Smith, into the left-center field gap for a game-winning, two-run double.
The Red Sox showed fight, grit, determination, a never-say-die attitude — you name it. You can call the victory whatever you want, but chances are there’s going to be a cliché included. And that’s quite all right. Even those involved couldn’t help it.
“I don’t really know how to explain it without being cliché but these guys are going to keep grinding,” Gomes said. “You don’t even have to look to our bats. You can go back to [Craig] Breslow by just keeping us in the game [in the eighth inning] and we can’t forget about the bullpen that came in and did their job again too. They allowed us to do that.”
Sunday’s come-from-behind win was a total team effort, and that was the theme all series.
The Red Sox were demolished in the series opener on Thursday. Emotions ran high leading up to that contest, as it marked Francona’s return to Fenway as Indians manager, but the game hardly lived up to the billing. The Indians easily took care of business against Ryan Dempster and Co., and they rolled to a 12-3 win.
From that point on, it was as if the Red Sox played with a purpose. On Friday, Boston rolled to an 8-1 win behind John Lackey, who has suddenly become a model of resilience himself. On Saturday, the Sox scored four runs in the eighth inning and received offensive contributions from unlikely sources, like Iglesias, Pedro Ciriaco and Mike Carp, en route to a 7-4 win. And on Sunday, everyone contributed in some way, shape or form.
The weekend wasn’t easy. It wasn’t without its hiccups, and it wasn’t without some anxiety. But the Red Sox continued to build upon their relentless image, and they should become an even better team going forward because of it.