It wasn’t a pretty performance from starter John Lackey. But collectively, the Sox did enough to stop Arizona, beating the D’Backs 8-5 and earning a sweep of the 3-game set. Again, the victory came on a night when the Yankees and Rays both fell, and Boston is now a mere 2 games back in the East.
The win wasn’t easy.
Lackey did not have particularly good stuff, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) over 6 innings. He scattered 8 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. Barely more than half of his pitches went for strikes. But he continually avoided the big inning and got plenty of support, 2 factors that helped Boston take over in the middle innings.
The teams traded runs in the first. Arizona scored following a walk by Justin Upton and a double by Miguel Montero. Boston responded when Dustin Pedroia walked, stole second, advanced to third on an infield single by David Ortiz, and scored after Kevin Youkilis grounded into a fielder’s choice.
As an aside, there’s really nothing better than watching Big Papi foil the opponent’s defensive shift by dropping one down the third base line.
After a scoreless second, runs resumed in the third. Stephen Drew reached on an infield dribbler and took second on Lackey’s errant throw. Chris Young doubled him home for a 2-1 D’Backs lead. But the Sox struck back in the bottom of the frame. Darnell McDonald reached after an error by third baseman Mark Reynolds, and David Ortiz made it count with a gargantuan 2-run homer to deep center.
As another aside, here’s a correction: Watching Papi launch prodigious home runs is at least as good as watching him outwit the shift.
In the fourth, Gerardo Parra laid down a bunt base hit, and singles by Rusty Ryal and Kelly Johnson tied the game at 3-3. The fifth was a re-run of the first, with Upton walking and Montero doubling him home to put Arizona up by 1 run. But back-to-back doubles by Marco Scutaro and Daniel Nava tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the inning.
In the sixth, a ground rule double by Victor Martinez and a single by Adrian Beltre put the Sox ahead for good. They added another following a Nava single, a McDonald HBP, and a sac fly by Scutaro. That ended the night for Arizona starter Dan Haren, who was yanked for Esmerling Vasquez. Vasquez closed out the inning and Haren’s line at 5.2 innings, 6 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks, and 4 Ks.
A Beltre walk, Nava double and Scutaro single added a couple of insurance runs in the eighth off of reliever Aaron Heilman. Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima threw scoreless innings to get the game to the ninth, where Jonathan Papelbon took over. Paps allowed an infield single by Stephen Drew, and once again defensive indifference came back to bite the Sox as Drew took second then socred on a double by Young. He did, however, wrap things up from there, keeping the final at 8-5.
Perhaps the most frustrating weakness this season has been Boston’s failure to properly handle opposing baserunners. Teams steal with ease, take second late in games without drawing throws, and generally provide plenty of mayhem on the basepaths. It’s something that Boston should work on fixing as the season continues.
The win earned the Sox a 3-game sweep, and with that accomplishment and modest winning streak in hand, the team can now turn its attention to the circus that is about to blow into town.
That’s right folks: Manny is coming back to Fenway.
For the first time since the trade that moved him to Los Angeles, Manny Ramirez will be back in Boston. Though I’m not one to advocate grudge-holding, I think fans would be justified in giving him a nice healthy booing for the shoddy way he left town and the total lack of effort he displayed prior to his trade. Manny is a hell of a hitter, but he strikes out when it comes to integrity and character.
Boston will seek to keep the wins coming when rookie call-up Felix Doubront takes the hill against 24 year old Caros Monasterios on Friday. On Saturday Tim Wakefield will face Vincente Padilla, and on Sunday Clay Buchholz will square off against Hiroki Kuroda. Monasterios has thrown well over 5 starts this season and Kuroda is sporting a 3.10 ERA. Padilla has been fairly terrible and comes in with questions about his ailing forearm. Depending on how well Doubront can do, all 3 matchups are winnable for the Sox.
This series will wrap up the current home stand as Boston will hit the road to take on the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies in more interleague play.