Closing Time: Daniel Nava comes through with game-winner as Steven Wright, Red Sox take three of four from Mariners
|07.11.13 at 7:47 pm ET|
As the unofficial end of the first half nears, there is one thing that is certain about the 2013 Red Sox: They can score, and score a lot.
Two days after battling back from an early 5-1 hole in an eventual 11-8 win, the Red Sox again chipped away at 5-1 and 7-4 deficits to beat the Mariners, 8-7, in 10 innings on Thursday afternoon at Safeco Field, finishing the four-game set with three wins and a combined 34 runs runs. With runners on first and second with two outs in the 10th inning, Daniel Nava — who had been 0-for-5 on the day and 0-for-3 in his career against Seattle right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen — sent a bouncer up the middle to score pinch-runner Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley started the game on the bench, but came on to pinch run for Ryan Lavarnway after the catcher worked a 10-pitch walk to lead off the inning.
The victorious visitors again mounted a balanced offensive attack again — once Nava singled, every Red Sox started reached base at least once — and had back-to-back three-run rallies in the fourth and fifth innings to permanently erase the Mariners’ lead.
Once Koji Uehara hurled a scoreless bottom of the 10th, the Red Sox improved their record to 6-4 in games tied after eight innings. The Sox are assured of being in first place in the AL East at the All-Star break.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– With a long home run to right field on the third pitch of the game, Jacoby Ellsbury not only drew first blood for the Red Sox, but also extended his hitting streak to 19 games. The long ball was his third of the season (and second in the last eight days) as well as his eighth homer leading off a game in his career.
Ellsbury ended his day 2-for-4 with two RBI and two walks, raising his average to .308 on the year. Since an 0-for-4 effort on May 20 dropped him down to .241, the free-agent-to-be is batting .382 with 19 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs.
– Brock Holt continued his quietly productive cup of coffee with the big league team. He collected a pair of RBI singles, the second of which came off of lefty Charlie Furbush, to up his average to .316. He also nearly beat out what ended up a sacrifice bunt to set up Nava’s dramatics two batters later.
Since being recalled July 6, Holt has started five of six games, knocked in five runs and walked three times.
– Not to be outdone by the batter immediately ahead of him (Holt) and after him (Ellsbury), Jose Iglesias chipped in with a pair of RBIs during his 2-for-5 day.
– Steven Wright tossed an outstanding 5 2/3 innings of relief to earn his first big league victory. He allowed no runs — just one runner he inherited from Ryan Dempster crossed the plate — on three hits and two walks while striking out a pair. Wright, who benefited from a pair of double plays, has thrown 23 1/3 consecutive innings between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket without allowing an earned run.
With his 83 pitches, however, Wright is presumably eliminated from consideration for making the start Sunday vs. the Athletics. Brandon Workman, who made his MLB debut Wednesday, and Drake Britton, who was promoted to Pawtucket last week, are both candidates to make the spot start.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Typically an innings-eater for the Red Sox, Ryan Dempster had a considerably smaller portion Thursday afternoon. He lasted only 3 1/3 frames while getting lit up for seven runs (four earned) on nine hits and a walk. He struck out four, including the first two batters he faced, but had trouble closing out innings, opening the door for two-out Seattle rallies. The damage could have been worse if not for the adept corner outfield defense from Jonny Gomes and Nava.
The second inning — all 40 pitches of it — proved particularly troublesome for the right-hander. After Kyle Seager‘s leadoff homer knotted the score at one, third baseman Holt failed to handle what would have been an inning-ending grounder. Brad Miller took advantage with an RBI ground-rule double, then Endy Chavez added a single to center to plate a pair.
With two outs in the third, Dempster walked Justin Smoak and drilled Mike Zunino to set up Michael Saunders‘ run-scoring single.
Dempster exited after recording a lone out in the fourth, mixing a strikeout in with three base knocks to score another. Wright, a knuckleballer recalled from Pawtucket before Wednesday’s win, allowed one of his inherited runners to score.
Thursday’s clunker is something of an anomaly given Dempster’s last month and a half. It was his second-shortest outing of the season and shortest since he went just three against the Indians on May 23 — the game right before he started his run of limiting opponents to three earned runs or fewer in each of his last eight outings, six of which were qualified as quality starts.
Indeed, the game was something of an anomaly for any member of the Red Sox pitching staff. The last time that any Sox starter other than Allen Webster lasted fewer than four innings was that same three-inning effort by Dempster in late-May.
– Dustin Pedroia did single to start a three-run rally in the fifth, but he finished the day 1-for-6 with two strikeouts, making him 7-for-33 (.212) during the team’s West Coast trip. The second baseman, who has missed one game all season and is reportedly playing through a torn ligament in his thumb, has seen his average drop each month of the season, from .337 in April to .336 in May to .292 in June and now, through 10 games in July, .268.
– A lifetime .239/.326/.448 hitter in day games, Gomes didn’t fare so well Thursday. He went 1-for-4 with a walk but struck out thrice, the first two coming on called full-count third strikes. Both times he thought the Erasmo Ramirez offerings were low or outside and took a step toward first for the walk. Still, Gomes did make an impact in the field, making a terrific crashing catch into the wall to spare Dempster from further harm in the second.
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