Red Sox Overcome Familiar Troubles To Begin Road Trip On Positive Note

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It had all the makings of a tough loss. Until it didn?t.

The Boston Red Sox, who at times this season have turned losing into an art form, appeared ready to let another game slip away Friday night against the Tampa Bays at Tropicana Field. But in an interesting turn of events, the Red Sox actually rose to the occasion in key spots to prevent yet another letdown.

Brock Holt knocked in Mookie Betts from second base with an RBI single in the 10th inning of the teams? series opener in St. Petersburg to propel Boston to a 4-3 win. Betts led off the inning with a double down the left field line on a pitch that looked like it would have hit him had he not swung the bat. And Holt went the other way with a 1-1 fastball from Brad Boxberger to break the 3-3 tie.

That was all the Red Sox needed in extra frames, as Koji Uehara shut the door on the Rays with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 10th in which he struck out two. But the Sox almost weren?t in that position, as several moments throughout the contest were reminiscent of past issues that have plagued Boston this season.

First, there was Rick Porcello?s inability to maintain momentum in the second inning. The Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the inning on an RBI double by Alejandro De Aza and a sacrifice fly by Jackie Bradley Jr. But Porcello, who has failed to provide shutdown innings several times this season, gave one right back moments later on three hits — two singles and a double — before stopping the bleeding.

Give Porcello credit for not allowing things to snowball too much in the second inning. But temper your praise, too, because Porcello also failed to close up shop in the sixth inning. He walked off the mound with the score tied at 3, extending his winless streak to seven starts.

Joey Butler sent Porcello?s second pitch of the sixth into center field for a leadoff single. Evan Longoria jumped on the right-hander?s next offering for a double that put two men in scoring position just like that. And sure enough, both scored, as David DeJesus delivered a sacrifice fly and Longoria, who took third on the sac fly, trotted home from third base when Porcello uncorked a wild pitch.

While the Rays didn?t do any more damage against Porcello in the sixth, the whole situation screamed ?here we go again? and the two-run yield looked like a precursor to a more devastating late-inning fate. The second indication that perhaps Friday wasn?t going to be the Red Sox?s night came in the seventh inning when Betts? indecision on the base paths proved problematic.

Betts, who reached on a forceout, attempted to steal second base. Rays catcher Curt Casali unleashed a throw into center field, at which point Betts popped up and started toward third base before tossing on the breaks. The hesitation forced Betts into no man?s land, and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier gunned him down at second base as he attempted to dive back to the bag.

The ninth inning posed yet another set of problems for the Red Sox, as Craig Breslow surrendered a first-pitch double to Asdrubal Cabrera to begin the inning. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was hugging the line in an effort to prevent an extra-base hit, yet he still couldn?t knock down the baseball. It was an all-too-familiar sequence for both Sandoval, who has had trouble fielding balls on the back hand this season, and Breslow, who has been relegated to mop-up duty in several instances because of his struggles.

The Rays had the winning run at third base with two outs after Kiermaier bounced out to second base. And while the Red Sox were one pitch away from extending the game, they also were one pitch away from falling to 11 games under .500 in rather predictable fashion. Yet the Red Sox changed speeds, literally and figuratively, as Alexi Ogando forced Butler to line a 1-2 slider to right field for the inning?s final out. Disaster averted.

The Red Sox rode the momentum of that ninth-inning tightrope walk into the 10th to pull off a win that always was within reach yet seemed so far away based on what we previously witnessed this season. So perhaps Boston is flipping the script with the All-Star break fast approaching.

At the very least, the Red Sox opened an important seven-game road trip against American League East opponents with a positive, hard-fought and, yes, surprising win.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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