Craig Breslow’s Importance No Longer Flying Under Radar and Other Red Sox Notes From Game 4 of ALDS

Boston Red SoxThree wins down. Eight to go.

The Red Sox grinded out a 3-1 victory over the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS on Tuesday to secure a spot in the ALCS. Boston now sits eight wins shy of a World Series title — something that seemed a long way away at the conclusion of the Red Sox’ dismal 69-93 campaign in 2012.

The Rays jumped ahead 1-0 in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s Game 4, but the Red Sox — in their usual resilient fashion — pushed across two runs in the seventh inning. Xander Bogaerts, who entered the game as a pinch hitter for Stephen Drew, scored the first run on a wild pitch by Joel Peralta, and Jacoby Ellsbury scored the second run when Shane Victorino hustled out an infield single. The Red Sox added one more run in the ninth inning when Dustin Pedroia connected on a sacrifice fly.

It wasn’t a pretty win, but who cares, really? This Red Sox team has had plenty of dramatic moments, but they’ve also had a ton of ugly, hard-fought victories in 2013. In fact, the Red Sox’ ability to win games in a number of different ways is part of what makes them so dangerous.

The Rays were certainly a worthy adversary, but the road should only get tougher from here. The ALCS is going to be a battle, regardless of whether the Red Sox play the Athletics or the Tigers.

Before we go any further, let’s unload the notebook for Game 4 of the ALDS.

  • Shane Victorino was 0-for-7 in his career against Joel Peralta before his go-ahead infield single in the seventh inning.
  • Victorino set an ALDS record by getting plunked four times in the series. He was hit twice in Game 4.

Victorino was drilled an American League-high 18 times during the regular season. Only Cincinnati’s Shin-Soo Choo (26) and Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte were hit more frequently.

“Part of getting hit is part of the game,” Victorino said after Tuesday’s game. “People say I’m close to the plate, I crowd the plate. Hey, it is what it is. And I know those guys aren’t doing it for any apparent reason. They’re trying to make their pitches and execute their pitches. So be it that I’m getting hit. It’s one of those things.

“And it depends, I’m going to go out there and try to be ready to hit. And if it hits me — I don’t want to get hit, trust me, it doesn’t feel good. Whatever it takes to win a ballgame. It’s being the guy at the top of the lineup for the rest of the guys.”

  • The Red Sox did not have a single extra-base hit in Game 4. Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks each had one hit, and all were singles.
  • Jake Peavy’s performance will stand as one of the most underrated aspects of Tuesday’s win. The right-hander was removed in the sixth inning, but he kept the Rays’ offense at bay while the Red Sox’ offense struggled to cash in on its opportunities early in the game.

Peavy gave up one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk anyone while throwing 74 pitches (49 strikes)

“It would be a shame if Jake’s start was overlooked,” reliever Craig Breslow said. “He was in total control, dominated at‑bats. Got ahead, was unbelievably efficient. Probably had a chance to go very deep in that game. Really important for him to match zeroes with kind of the army of guys that they were running out on the other side. Jake’s been a big-game pitcher his whole career. Emotionally driven. And we knew we were going to get everything he had. And he probably had some more.”

  • While Peavy rolled along, the Rays — as Breslow put it — trotted out an army of guys. Joe Maddon yanked starter Jeremy Hellickson in the second inning after the right-hander loaded the bases with no outs.

Maddon emptied his bullpen and used nine pitchers before all was said and done. That’s an MLB postseason record for a nine-inning game.

“Hey, it’s do or die, whatever it takes,” Victorino said. “And obviously Joe was prepared for that.  Obviously, early in the game by pulling Hellickson. We didn’t score any and they executed, but again we were able to pull the win off.”

  • Maddon said that David Price, who was originally penciled in as Tampa Bay’s Game 5 starter, would have entered Game 4 in the 10th inning if the Rays forced extra innings.

So what then for Game 5?

“It would have looked a lot like Game 4,” Maddon said after his team’s loss. “Without winning a Game 4, there is no Game 5. So you just would piece it together after that in a similar fashion. We did the same thing earlier against Oakland, where the bullpen did a nice job. If you have a sturdy bullpen, which we do, there would have been a day off, so I thought by game time Thursday we would have been fine by then.”

  • The Red Sox, meanwhile, used just three relievers — Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara — in Game 4. Boston’s “Big Three” was fantastic, which was the case all series, despite Jose Lobaton’s game-winning home run off Uehara in Game 3.
  • Breslow struck out the first four hitters he faced Tuesday, including Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings in order in the seventh inning. It was a dominant performance by the reliable left-hander, who continues to be an invaluable piece of the Red Sox’ bullpen.

“He’s been, I don’t want to say an unsung hero, but he’s flown under the radar most of the year,” John Farrell said. “And next to Koji, he’s a very dependable reliever. But when he comes out and gets the strikeout of [James] Loney [in the sixth inning], and he goes through the next inning with the three strikeouts, a huge performance on his part to bridge to both Junichi and Koji as we finish that out.”

Breslow, who received the win Tuesday, appeared in three games in the series and pitched 3 2/3 innings. He didn’t surrender a run, allowed two hits and walked one. It’s safe to say that Breslow might be Boston’s most underrated player, and it’s nice to see him start getting some extra recognition for his efforts.

  • Breslow wasn’t trying to strike everyone out in Game 4, though. It just sort of happened.

“My goal was just to get guys out. It wasn’t to strike guys out,” Breslow said. “Coming in with two outs, knowing if I get the hitter out. And knowing where we were in the lineup when I went back out for that second inning, it was the heart of the order, pretty dangerous guys. Trying to keep the ball on the ground as much as I could. And for whatever reason tonight, I was able to get ahead. And before the ball was put in play I was able to get in strikeouts.”

  • Tazawa struck out the only hitter he faced Tuesday — Matt Joyce.

Tazawa appeared in all four games of the series and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings. That’s very encouraging given that he struggled down the stretch, particularly with his splitter, after dominating earlier in the season.

  • Uehara bounced back from Monday’s devastating defeat to retire all four batters he faced. He struck out Longoria to end the game.
  • In the ALDS, the combination of Uehara, Tazawa and Breslow combined to give up just one run on four hits in nine innings while striking out 10. That’s not only impressive, but it also speaks to how truly valuable the trio is to the Red Sox’ postseason efforts.
  • Rookie Xander Bogaerts deserves a tip of the cap for his role in Tuesday’s win. Bogaerts pinch hit for Stephen Drew with one out in the seventh inning and showed tremendous plate discipline — something that he worked on extensively down in the minors this season — en route to earning a walk. Bogaerts then scored the tying run.

Bogaerts also led off the ninth inning with a walk and came around to score an insurance run when Dustin Pedroia delivered a sacrifice fly to right field.

“For a young guy that’s been sitting for quite a while, obviously, he showed tremendous poise and almost ice in his veins and scored two runs of the three we had tonight,” Farrell said.

  • The Red Sox will open up the ALCS at Fenway Park on Saturday. They’ll play the winner of Thursday’s decisive Game 5 between the A’s and Tigers.

The Red Sox went 3-3 against the A’s this season and 3-4 against the Tigers.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

Yardbarker

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 190,445 other followers