Mike Napoli’s Defense A Huge Asset; Other Notes From Red Sox’s Win

Mike NapoliBOSTON — It took nine attempts, but the Red Sox finally are back to .500.

The Red Sox, who were 0-8 in their last nine cracks at .500, defeated the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday at Fenway Park. Boston rallied for two runs in the eighth inning en route to a 4-3 victory.

A.J. Pierzynski delivered a game-tying double, and Will Middlebrooks produced a game-winning single. There obviously was much more to Wednesday’s contest, though, so let’s have a look.

– Skip Schumaker gave the Reds a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer into the Cincinnati bullpen.

The Red Sox later responded with two runs in the sixth inning. David Ortiz singled home a run, and Mike Napoli poked an RBI double up the right field line before the Red Sox left the bases loaded.

– Napoli, who finished 1-for-3 with a walk, now has reached base in a career-high 28 straight games, though the first baseman’s glove work was just as impressive Wednesday.

Napoli, who snagged a line drive in the first inning, kicked off a highlight-reel double play in the second inning. Roger Bernadina yanked a sharply hit ground ball that Napoli fielded while ranging toward the line. Napoli stepped on first base and tossed a strong, off-balance throw to second base, where Jonathan Herrera tagged Ryan Ludwick to complete the inning-ending double play.

“I think Nap, what he brings from a first base perspective, goes under the radar,” Red Sox starter Jake Peavy said. “He’s a tremendous first baseman and makes a great play there.”

Napoli also made a nice play in the seventh inning to save a wild throw from Dustin Pedroia.

– Peavy lasted into the seventh inning. The right-hander was charged with three earned runs on four hits over six innings of work.

Peavy struck out four and walked four, marking the fifth time in seven starts he’s walked at least four batters. Schumaker’s homer continued Peavy’s streak of allowing a home run in each start this season.

Peavy, who didn’t factor into the decision, exited a 2-2 game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh.

– The Red Sox’s bullpen once again played a crucial role.

Chris Capuano and Burke Badenhop escaped the daunting seventh-inning jam with the Red Sox facing just a one-run deficit. Craig Breslow tossed a scoreless eighth inning, and Koji Uehara nailed down Boston’s victory by striking out the side in the ninth.

– The Red Sox, as they typically do, really grinded out at-bats during their eighth-inning rally. Napoli and Jonny Gomes walked to pave the way for Pierzynski and Middlebrooks to produce clutch hits.

Middlebrooks’ seven-pitch at-bat was particularly impressive, as he laid off some tough pitches before lining an RBI single into center field. Middlebrooks’ knock marked his second career go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later.

– Uehara actually has been somewhat human of late, but the reliable closer nailed down the Red Sox’s win with a flawless ninth.

“Much more sharp,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Uehara’s effort. “I know he’s been working on some things. The last few times out, he’s been across himself with his direction with his delivery, and it’s taken away from the crispness and the overall command to his stuff. He was able to get back on line a little bit here tonight, and he was Koji-like, as we’ve seen for quite a while.”

– The Red Sox now are 5-8 in one-run games this season. Their 13 one-run games are the most in the American League.