BOSTON — Apparently, notching just one walk-off win in a day isn’t enough for these Red Sox.
The Red Sox capped Wednesday’s 15-inning affair with a walk-off win after midnight. Less than 24 hours later, they scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Mariners, 8-7.
Dramatic victories have become the norm in Boston, as the Red Sox now have a major league-leading 11 walk-off wins this season. But the six-run, ninth-inning rally against Seattle on Thursday night further showed that something truly special is happening in Boston.
“In a word, magical,” manager John Farrell said of the improbable comeback. “Given that we’re down five against a very good pitcher in [Tom] Wilhelmsen, when you consider his raw stuff. But we stayed with a consistent approach — we didn’t chase, we didn’t expand, combined a couple of walks, six straight hits. Jonny Gomes’ at-bat might be the key inside of that where he takes a borderline pitch, base hit up the middle following to tie it. But just a lot of quality at-bats inside the ninth inning, and like we talked last night, the energy we’re somehow able to dig deep and get was once again there tonight.”
The Red Sox entered the ninth inning trailing by five runs. Felix Hernandez had shut down Boston’s offense for seven innings, and while Shane Victorino helped chip away with a home run in the eighth, it still looked as if the Red Sox were dead in the water. As they’ve done all season, though, the Sox stuck with their offensive approach, and their resilience won out once again.
“We don’t quit, ever,” Farrell said. “It might be easy thinking that you’re down five with their closer coming in that it might be over. But there’s no quit in this bunch, and they truly believe that there’s a chance to do something special on a given night or over the course of a given year, but that one would be this year.”
The Red Sox have had some thrilling moments this season, but Thursday night’s victory is certainly near the top of the list, especially given the unlikelihood of such a comeback. According to Fangraphs, the Red Sox had a 1 percent chance of winning going into the ninth inning.
Gomes struck a chord when he made two great defensive plays in the top of the ninth, though, and the momentum carried over to the offensive side of things. Daniel Nava started the rally with an all-important leadoff walk, and Ryan Lavarnway added to it with a single into center field. The first of many scoreboard changes came when Brock Holt doubled in Boston’s third run of the game.
“It kind of happened like a microwave,” Gomes said. “Everything pretty instant from defense to offense in an inning and a half. It’s not ideal having to come back like that, but what we wanted to do was knock out their starting pitcher, King Felix, one of the best. It took us a long time to get his pitch count up, but he left us some outs, and we took advantage of it.”
Things really started to take shape when Victorino smacked a two-run single into right field to make it 7-5. His hit came after Oliver Perez entered the game for Wilhelmsen, and it got Fenway Park rocking even more than it already was.
“Anytime you get a leadoff walk it kind of breathes a little life into you,” Farrell said. “I think after Victorino’s base hit to right that brought us to within two, that seemed to be not only further momentum, it was getting closer.”
It wasn’t long after Victorino’s single that the Red Sox celebrated their incredible victory. Dustin Pedroia singled into left field to make the score 7-6, and after David Ortiz struck out swinging, Gomes lined a 3-2 fastball into center field to tie the game. Nava, who started the rally with the leadoff walk, capped the comeback with a line drive over Michael Saunders’ head in center field.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Nava said. “Is it magical? I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to you to decide, but it’s a lot of fun. I don’t think anyone saw that happening tonight. It started off nice and small. A lot of huge at-bats played a big role in that.”
The Red Sox undoubtedly have a flair for the dramatic, and it should serve them well as they head into what should be a grueling stretch run. Boston isn’t without its deficiencies, but it’s also capable of overcoming its shortcomings.
“I don’t think it shocked anyone, to tell you the truth,” Gomes said of the comeback. “Like I said, we’ve done it a whole bunch. I don’t think we learned anything from this. If this was our first time, it’d be a nice character boost and build a little home-field advantage, but it’s kind of par for the course with what we’ve been doing this year.”
The Red Sox have won exactly 10 percent of their games in walk-off fashion. But each time tends to be a little bit different, and every time is equally as special.