De Aza, appearing in just his third game with the Red Sox, ripped a pinch-hit RBI single into right field in the eighth inning as part of Boston’s seven-run explosion. The Red Sox already had a one-run lead before De Aza batted for Sandy Leon, as Xander Bogaerts delivered a go-ahead double, but a little extra breathing room was important on an afternoon when Boston was without closer Koji Uehara.
“De Aza’s base hit is key,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday after his team’s 7-4, comeback win over the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park. “Knowing that Koji’s down (Sunday) after three consecutive games pitched for him, to give us some insurance, it allowed us to maintain some momentum, and then Tommy Layne with a clean (ninth) inning of work.
“But this (win) is a momentum builder for us, no doubt.”
Layne, filling in for Uehara, had no issues retiring the A’s in the ninth inning, meaning the Red Sox were positioned to win with or without De Aza’s RBI knock. But the 31-year-old’s ability to come off the bench and deliver a key hit was an encouraging sign, especially after he then hustled around from second base on Rusney Castillo’s single to left field to score Boston’s seventh and final run.
“You just try to do the little things,” De Aza said, according to the Boston Herald. “Try to do the job, do anything you can do to contribute to help win a game.”
The Red Sox have lacked “the little things” all too often this season, which is why they’re four games under .500 (27-31) despite rattling off three straight wins over the A’s for their first sweep of 2015.
Boston’s come-from-behind victory in the series finale was a step in the right direction, though. The Sox showed plenty of fight over the weekend after a sloppy series finale Thursday against the Minnesota Twins, and someone like De Aza — an outfielder recently designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles before being traded to the Red Sox — could prove valuable in a bench/platoon role by virtue of playing with energy and forcing healthy competition if someone else falters.
“If you go back to see what he did against us and against this division last year, he’s a very productive left fielder, a very productive hitter,” Farrell said before Sunday’s win. “There’s extra-base ability in the bat.
“To me, there’s clearly some pretty good instincts and some know-how in between the lines. He’s got speed. He can put pressure on the defense with a stolen base or certainly with his baserunning ability. A good player to have on your roster.”
It’s still unclear how much playing time De Aza will receive with the Red Sox. According to Farrell, the left-handed hitter likely will occupy all three outfield spots at some point, but there’s no set schedule for when he’ll be deployed. And who knows what Shane Victorino’s eventual return will mean for the roster?
But the early returns on De Aza have been promising. The eight-year veteran is 3-for-8 in three games with Boston while making a few notable defensive plays, including a running catch in left-center field Friday night to record the final out with the potential tying run on second base.
Are the Red Sox 3-0 over their last three games because of De Aza? No. But like Farrell said, he’s a good player to have on the roster given his flexibility, his decent track record and his willingness to fulfill a less glamorous yet still extremely important role in the Red Sox’s overall quest to improve.
Thumbnail photo via Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports Images
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