The Red Sox survived another close shave against the Houston Astros Wednesday night thanks to a game-winning ninth-inning homer from Stephen Drew.
All's well that ends well, but once again nothing came easy to the Red Sox. And for this game it wasn't because of anything unusual, but the status quo holding firm. First there's Ryan Dempster, who continues to struggle to keep runs off the board. If there were encouraging signs early, with Dempster picking up plenty of strikeouts against the whiff-prone Astros, a two-run homer in the third put a black mark on Dempster's night early, and a sudden implosion in the sixth led to three more runs and a thoroughly disappointing performance.
For all that, had the Red Sox made good on their many chances against Jarred Cosart, they would have had a comfortable lead. But somehow, against all odds, despite giving up hits and walks aplenty, Cosart continued to dodge bullets. While Boston would cash in on a couple of opportunities in the second and third innings for a pair of runs, they left two men on in both the first and fourth, had a double play completely erase a promising fifth, and then wasted three walks in the sixth, leaving the bases loaded as Shane Victorino was called out on a very questionable check swing by third base umpire Brian Knight.
It was a call that would ultimately cost Boston their right fielder entirely. After having had time to review the tape, Shane Victorino seemed to take the issue up with Knight again from the dugout. And while Victorino appeared calm and even jovial, Knight was having none of it, wasting no time to give Victorino the boot, turning yet another baseball game into an episode of everyone's least favorite program: The Ump Show.
Then again, the Red Sox might have Knight to thank. It's possible Victorino's abrupt dismissal lit a bit of a fire under the rest of the team. David Ortiz may have had his line drive snagged at first, but Mike Carp quickly slapped a hit into right field, bringing Jonny Gomes to the plate. The man who would end up switching to right field to replace Victorino gave him something to cheer for back in the clubhouse, clobbering a straight 0-1 fastball down the middle for a two-run, line drive homer over the scoreboard wall in left field.
The Sox would leave another pair of runners on to end the inning, however, and after a 1-2-3 eighth, it seemed like momentum might have left the lineup. But in the ninth, with former Sox farmhand Josh Fields into the game, the middle of the order got right back to it. David Ortiz led off the inning with his fourth hit of the game (immediately being replaced at first by none other than pitcher Drake Britton), and after a line drive out from Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes drew a six pitch walk, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Any fears that this would come down to a play at the plate with a pitcher running, however, were put suddenly to rest by Stephen Drew. Fields had already gotten away with a couple hanging curveballs, so perhaps Drew was ready for it. An 0-1 breaking ball at the top of the zone was greeted by Drew's bat, sending L.J. Hoes all the way back to the right field wall, where the Sox had come up just short time and again against Cosart. Hoes leapt in the air, but the ball was well gone, a good five rows back.
A one-run deficit having turned into a two-run lead, the Red Sox called upon Koji Uehara, who did what the Red Sox have come to expect, striking out the side--albeit around a single--to end the game and secure the Boston win.
Was it harder than it should have been? Yes. Does that matter in the standings at the end of the day? No. The Red Sox won their series in Houston when the alternative was, frankly, unacceptable, and will head to Kansas City with at least a 1.5 game division lead in hand.
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