The first 2 games of the series didn’t go very well. In the third, Boston got Cliff Lee. Talk about little reason for optimism.
But on Saturday, the Sox put together a solid effort, getting a strong start from John Lackey and just enough offense to make the difference in a 3-2 11th inning victory at Fenway. Lackey went 7, allowing only 2 runs 7 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 3. It wasn’t quite as good as Lee’s night– 9 innings, 2 runs on 6 hits and 1 walk, and 6 Ks. The difference was that Lackey had Kevin Youkilis backing him up.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first after Darnell McDonald doulbed and scored on a David Ortiz single to center. Then Youkilis singled Ortiz to second. For a moment, the normally invincible Lee looked vulnerable.
But an Adrian Beltre double play snuffed the rally, and from then on Lee shut the Sox down.
Meanwhile, Lackey tossed 5 shutout innings before yielding a pair of runs in the sixth. With 2 outs, Ian Kinsler singled and Vlad Guerrero walked to put a man in scoring position. A pair of singles Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz made it 2-1 Rangers. Lackey bounced back to pitch a scoreless seventh before giving way to the trio of Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon, and Manny Delcarmen. The relievers kept the Rangers in check and secured the win.
That came courtesy of Youkilis, who tied things up in the ninth with an RBI double. Marco Scutaro had led off the frame with a single, advancing to third on a McDonald sacrifice and a groundout by David Ortiz. He scored easily on Youk’s wall-ball.
In the eleventh, Boston capitalized on an error by Texas pitcher Alexi Ogando. Scutaro drew a leadoff walk, and again McDonald bunted him to second. But Ogando’s errant throw kept everyone safe and allowed both runners to advance. Manager Ron Washington called for the intentional walk against Big Papi, then handed the game over to Darren O’Day. O’Day has had a stellar season, but all it took to end his outing was a sac fly by Youkilis that scored Scutaro for the 3-2 victory.
The Sox can earn a series split by winning Sunday’s finale. Jon Lester will face C.J. Wilson, making it a favorable matchup for Boston. Stealing a game from Lee could prove to be the critical factor in avoiding a series loss.