The Boston Red Sox entered the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox on the verge of dropping their fourth straight contest for the first time since 2012. Less than 24 hours later, the Red Sox headed home with back-to-back wins in their pocket.
The Red Sox in no way, shape or form are playing their best baseball right now. But those looking to view the glass as half full can take solace in the Red Sox’s ability to scratch and claw their way to two straight wins despite their obvious shortcomings.
The Red Sox’s offense continued its early-season theme by again struggling in Thursday’s series finale against the White Sox. Boston produced just one hit — a solo homer by Xander Bogaerts — over the first eight innings, and it looked like the Red Sox were going to spoil another solid effort by Jon Lester, who pitched eight frames of one-run ball. Boston’s offense generated two runs on four hits in the ninth inning, though, and the Red Sox capped their seven-game road trip with a 3-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
Boston’s ninth-inning magic Thursday began with singles from Mike Napoli and Mike Carp, who pinch-hit for Jonny Gomes against right-hander Ronald Belisario. David Ross then produced a big hit — something that’s been elusive for Boston this season — by slicing a line drive just inside the first base line. Napoli scored from second base on Ross’ RBI double.
“I don’t think we were any more aggressive. It just works out that way,” Ross said of the Red Sox’s ninth-inning rally. “When you’ve got a guy throwing the ball like (White Sox starter Chris) Sale was, you’ve got to try to get his pitch count up and try to get him out of there. … We got a huge, huge outing from Jonny (Lester), and (he was) picking up our bullpen. We only needed to use him and Koji (Uehara). Great outing by our pitching staff. Great outing by both pitching staffs. Guys worked their tails off and had good at-bats.”
The Red Sox added an insurance run in the ninth inning after manager John Farrell called upon Jonathan Herrera to pinch-hit for Ryan Roberts. The White Sox turned to lefty Scott Downs given that Herrera is much better against right-handed pitching, but Farrell and the Red Sox had a trick up their sleeves. Herrera, who batted from the right side against Downs, dropped a bunt up the first base line that plated Grady Sizemore, who pinch-ran for Carp, with Boston’s third run.
“Once they brought in a left-hander, (Herrera’s) strength is on the left side,” Farrell said. “When they turned him around, we felt like they were going to be playing the infield in. Downs is a good sinker ball pitcher. If they’re going to do that, we’ll try to just lay a bunt down and (Herrera) did just that.”
Thursday’s victory won’t go in the books as a thing of beauty for the Red Sox’s offense. Neither will Wednesday’s win, in which Boston produced just six hits. But both wins count the same as they would if the Red Sox scored 20 runs each night, and it’s reasonable to think the early-season battles actually could help this year’s team in the long run.