Teams typically look to create their own identity. But sometimes, preserving the status quo is a good thing.
Take the Boston Red Sox, for example.
The 2013 Red Sox played 178 games between the regular season and playoffs, and they didn’t lose more than three games in a row at any point. The 2014 Red Sox played just their 15th game Wednesday, and they already were on the verge of falling into a four-game losing streak until a late rally against the Chicago White Sox set the stage for a 6-4 win in 14 innings and showed that Boston still has some of the same fight that was a hallmark of last year’s World Series-winning team.
“Definitely the definition of a grind-it-out win,” said Jackie Bradley Jr., whose two-run double in the 14th inning propelled the Red Sox past the White Sox on Wednesday (or early Thursday morning, to be exact). “It was like a heavyweight fight. Everybody’s tired and we were just trying to will it out and try to do the best we can.”
The Red Sox looked destined to drop their fourth consecutive game for the first time since 2012, as the White Sox carried a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning thanks to Alexei Ramirez’s two-run homer in the sixth. The Red Sox continued to string together good at-bats, though, and the White Sox’s control problems on the mound proved to be detrimental.
The White Sox issued 15 walks, including four free passes in the eighth inning and two in the ninth. A.J. Pierzynski and Grady Sizemore produced sacrifice flies in the eighth and ninth, respectively, enabling the Red Sox to tie the game at three apiece despite not having a single hit between David Ortiz’s first-inning single and Jonny Gomes’ swinging bunt single with one out in the ninth.
“Our pitchers did a heck of a job tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “The bullpen once again came in without a lot of margin for error. They continued to put up zeros and we had multiple, multiple opportunities with men on base offensively and we’re still grinding away. We didn’t come out of our approach, and we took base on balls when they were issued, which were a lot. Thankfully, we walk away here (with) the win.”
The White Sox turned to utility infielder Leury Garcia to pitch the 14th inning with the score tied 4-4 because Chicago ran out of relievers. Garcia retired Sizemore and Pierzynski to begin the inning, but Daniel Nava and Jonathan Herrera worked back-to-back walks to pave the way for Bradley’s game-winning double.
One could look at the glass as half full or half empty when it comes to the Red Sox’s offense. The club drove up pitch counts and generated baserunners Wednesday — something they did all last season — while giving themselves several chances to inflict damage. But Boston consistently has struggled with men on base this season, and the Red Sox, who left 16 men on base and went 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, easily could have dropped their fourth straight contest if the White Sox didn’t gift wrap a victory with walks by the truckload.
Take a guess at which way the Red Sox are looking at things. And who could blame them? The Red Sox started producing timely hits last season, and there’s reason to believe this year’s squad, which finally showed some fight Wednesday, will come around.
“It’s a start,” Bradley said of Wednesday’s win. “Everything will start falling into place, I believe.”
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