Quintin Berry might only have one role with the Red Sox this season. But it’s an important role.
Berry, who was acquired in exchange for pitcher Clayton Mortensen last week, figures to be the Red Sox’ go-to pinch runner down the stretch and likely into the postseason if all goes well over the final month of the regular season. As we saw Thursday, Berry could really leave a mark late in ballgames.
Berry pinch ran for Mike Napoli with the Red Sox trailing by a run in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game against the Yankees. He immediately took off for second base and made it there successfully before scampering up to third base when the ball kicked away into left field. Berry scored the tying run one pitch later when Stephen Drew dropped a single into right field, and the Red Sox eventually defeated the Yankees 9-8 in 10 innings.
“The stolen base by Berry was key,” manager John Farrell said. “We needed that speed off the bench, that one component. We felt like, from a team standpoint, that was the one area where we were a bit short and tonight was the first time he’s been pressed into that specific spot and he came through.”
Berry, who was added to the 40-man roster Sunday when Daniel Bard was designated for assignment, had appeared in just two games with the Red Sox before being called upon in the ninth inning of Thursday’s contest in the Bronx. He replaced Jacoby Ellsbury in center field before the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, and he entered after the Red Sox were already blowing the doors off the Tigers on Wednesday. Thursday marked Berry’s first opportunity to make an impact, and he showed exactly why there’s real value — especially during crunch time — in carrying a player whose sole purpose is to pinch run.
“Because of the offense we have and the ballclub we have, there’s not going to be a lot of opportunities, because we pitch so well and hit so well,” Berry said. “So when I do get that opportunity, I try to make the most of it.”
The Red Sox’ overall depth has been such an important part of their success this season. It’s allowed them to look for matchups while also keeping players fresh. The team did lack bench speed, however, and perhaps no game revealed that more than the Red Sox’ July 29 contest against the Rays, during which Daniel Nava was called upon to pinch run and subsequently ran into a huge out. Berry should help avoid similar disasters and give the Red Sox a dynamic presence on the base paths when called upon.
The next time Berry gets caught stealing in a major league game, it will be his first time. He’s now 22-for-22 in stolen-base attempts, as the 28-year-old went 21-for-21 while appearing in 94 games with the Tigers last season. The Red Sox hope the perfect trend continues, especially since Boston knows a thing or two about big stolen bases come playoff time.