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Closing Time: Red Sox survive to beat Rays in 14 innings

06.11.13 at 12:37 am ET
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John Lackey allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings Monday night. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — What once was shaping up to be a ho-hum Red Sox runaway Monday night evolved into yet another Tropicana Field brouhaha.

The end result was 10-8, 14-inning win for the Red Sox, completing a night of unexpected uneasiness for the visitors.

Ultimately, the key blow for the Sox came with one out in the 14th. With Shane Victorino at second base (having singled and tagged up on Dustin Pedroia‘s fly ball to right), and David Ortiz at first (walk), Daniel Nava hit a broken-bat single to center. The base hit plated Victorino, serving as the game-winning run in a five-hour, 24-minute affair

“We did a lot of good things well tonight,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Most importantly, scoring one more run than they did.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s base hit added an insurance run, scoring pinch-runner Jose Iglesias.

An hour earlier, what appeared to be trending toward the final piece of drama came after the Red Sox had claimed a two-run lead in the 10th.

Jose Lobaton led off the bottom frame with a solo homer against Sox closer Andrew Bailey to cut the visitors’ lead to one. Bailey proceeded to walk both Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce before loading the bases with nobody out on a Ben Zobrist single and allowing a bases-loaded walk to Kelly Johnson, knotting the game at 8-8.

But with the bases loaded and nobody out, the Red Sox reliever induced a 5-2-3 double play off the bat of Evan Longoria. Bailey was able to close out the threat when Pedroia scooped up Sam Fuld‘s drag bunt in time to get the pinch-hitter.

“The bunt? That saves the game, especially against a guy that fast,” Saltalamacchia said. “It’s almost like he expected that to happen. I thought he was going to just from knowing him, playing against him. That kind of what he does so well, so why not go with it. He made an unbelievable play.

“That’s the big thing, we’re all on the same page. [Coach Brian Butterfield] does a great job with the infielders, and me and [David Ross] are in every meeting. Opening day is a rough day for us because we’re in three or four meetings. But it works. We knew what was going on. We kind of expected the bunt, so we were on the same page, which helps me what to call.”

It appeared the Sox might come away with a tidy blowout of the Rays after scoring six runs in the first inning against starter Alex Cobb. But thanks to an inability to do much of anything offensively the rest of the way, along with one of John Lackey‘s most uncomfortable outings of the season, the storyline was anything but formulaic.

Earlier in the 10th inning, Saltalamacchia deposited a 99 mph fastball from Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney into center field, scoring Pedroia and Nava. Both baserunners had walked.

Before that, however, the Rays came all the way back from their six-run deficit the eighth inning when Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa uncorked a two-out wild pitch with Zobrist at bat, allowing Escobar to score the game-tying run. Saltalamacchia managed to race back and flip the ball to a covering Tazawa, but the hurler couldn’t get the tag down in time. (Farrell came out to argue briefly with home plate umpire Tom Hallion.)

Adding to the drama was a sixth-inning incident in which both benches and bullpens cleared after Lackey hit Joyce with a two-out, 0-1 fastball. Joyce, who had homered in the first inning against Lackey, yelled out at the pitcher while being restrained by Saltalamacchia. After the teams converged on the field, cooler heads prevailed and both clubs adjourned to their respective sides without further incident.

Here is what went right and wrong for the Red Sox in their series opener against the Rays.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– The Red Sox went a long way in executing their strategy of getting into the Rays bullpen early, making Cobb throw 38 first-inning pitches. The starter left the game after four innings, having thrown 98 pitches. The six-run inning was the first time since June 27, 2003, that the Sox had their first eight hitters reach safely. In that ’03 game, the Red Sox managed 11 straight reaching safely before recording an out.

- The one-two dynamic of Jacoby Ellsbury and Victorino was in effect at the top of the lineup for the first time since May 20. It paid off right away, with Ellsbury leading off with a single and Victorino following with a double down the right-field line. Pedroia would drive in both with a two-run single, boosting his first-inning batting average to .439, second best in the majors.

– Nava continued to make a case for making the American League All-Star team, driving in Pedroia with a first-inning double.

– As good as Pedroia has been in the first inning, Mike Carp has equally as impressive, now 4-for-7 with two walks after hitting a sharp single to left field. The base hit, which raised Carp’s average to .326 at the time, scored Ortiz (walk) and Nava.

– Carp took away what would have been a two-run hit off the bat of James Loney in the third inning, leaping to catch a  no-out, bases-loaded blast down the line. It was one of many escapes for the Red Sox, who forced the Rays to go 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

– Pedroia made the defensive play of the game in the eighth inning on Johnson’s pop-up. With two outs and the potential go-ahead run at second base in the form of Zobrist, Johnson lofted a high pop almost directly above Tazawa. The pitcher, however, didn’t attempt the catch the ball, looking for his fielders to take over. Pedroia swooped in just in time, sliding and plucking the ball from the air just before it hit the ground for the inning’s final out.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– After the Red Sox’ six-run first inning, Lackey surrendered two runs back to the Rays. The first came on the righty’s second pitch of the game, a blast off the bat of Joyce. (It was the second leadoff home run allowed by Lackey this season, following Ian Kinsler’s homer in Texas.) Lackey then surrendered another home run, this one to Longoria. The homers continued a streak in which Lackey surrendered runs on only solo homers since May 14 (6 earned runs) up until the third inning.

– Ellsbury had the rare feat of notching a single while also making two outs in the first inning, ending the six-run frame with a 6-3 double play.

– Lackey took a Lobaton line drive off the left foot leading off the sixth inning. After a visit from the training staff, the starter remained in the game, having throwing 89 pitches.

– Red Sox batters struck out 17 times, a season high. Stephen Drew fanned four times, tying a career high he now has reached three times.

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