BOSTON — No one on the Red Sox is calling for duck boats after reaching the .500 mark. But for a team that failed in its previous eight attempts to even its season record, .500 never looked so good.
The Red Sox rallied for two runs in the eighth inning Wednesday to defeat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 at Fenway Park. The Sox now head to Texas for a three-game series against the Rangers with a 17-17 record and some well-timed momentum.
“Guys are just grinding,” said Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who lasted into the seventh inning Wednesday, despite not factoring into the decision. “We keep getting into good situations offensively with not a whole lot to show for it. But at the end of the day, I think we show a lot character, and you watch guys continue to fight to get into those positions.”
Peavy exited in the seventh with the scored tied 2-2, the bases loaded and nobody out. The Reds had a chance to seize complete control of the game, but the combination of Chris Capuano and Burke Badenhop did an excellent job of minimizing the damage.
Capuano induced a ground ball to second base that Dustin Pedroia handled. Pedroia nearly threw the ball away, but Mike Napoli made a nice defensive play to snag the errant throw and complete the out as the go-ahead run crossed the plate.
Badenhop then entered an induced a ground ball to third base that Will Middlebrooks fielded before firing home to nab Brayan Pena, who was off on contact. Zack Cozart followed with a little dribbler in front of the plate that catcher A.J. Pierzynski cleanly handled for the third out. The Red Sox managed to escape the inning facing just a one-run deficit.
“That’s where Badenhop’s style really comes in to play — to keep the ball on the ground,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Hopefully we can do what transpired — or what played out — and that was a couple of balls on the ground. Those two guys made some key pitches with their backs against the wall.”
Craig Breslow kept Cincinnati off the scoreboard in the eighth inning. The Red Sox thus were able to dig in against Cincinnati’s bullpen — after seven solid frames from Reds starter Mike Leake — facing just a one-run hole. Boston quickly resorted to its grind-it-out approach.
Mike Napoli worked a one-out walk against lefty Manny Parra. Jonny Gomes pinch-hit for Grady Sizemore — at which point the Reds turned to right-hander J.J. Hoover — and walked on four pitches. Pierzynski tied the game with a ground-rule double down the right field line, and Middlebrooks followed an intentional walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. with a single into center field to give Boston a 4-3 lead.
“The one thing this team does is grind at-bats out,” Pierzynski said. “No matter who it is or what position in the order they’re in, we find a way to grind at-bats and that’s something I think this team takes a lot of pride in. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Wednesday’s win put the Red Sox back at .500 for the first time since Boston started the season 2-2. Farrell said after the game he didn’t think getting back to .500 was something that weighed too heavily on his team, but the Red Sox undoubtedly can feel much better traveling to Arlington knowing they took care of business against a Reds team that arrived at Fenway on the heels of a pretty good stretch.
“Great team win,” Peavy said. “I’m excited we climbed back in and got back to .500 going into the off day (Thursday). It’s always nice to end the homestand on a winning note. It’s nice to go to Texas on a winning note. Now we can start climbing.”