The Red Sox have a new strategy. They'll let their opponents stick around. They'll let them tie it up. They'll let them stay even up until the late innings. And then they'll hit a grand slam to make it a cakewalk finish.
What Mike Napoli started and Mike Carp continued, Jarrod Saltalamacchia officially made a trend tonight, blasting an 0-1 fastball from Preston Claiborne (who at this point has to break out in a sweat anytime Boston so much as comes up in conversation) back and over the bullpens in right field for Boston's third late-game, tie-breaking grand slam in eight days.
The slam ended a bit of old fashioned opportunity wasting by the Red Sox, stretching back to the second inning. After taking four runs off of Hiroki Kuroda in the first on hits from Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Daniel Nava, and Stephen Drew, the Sox had left the bases loaded in the second, and then stranded Saltalamacchia himself after a leadoff double in the third. To be fair, it was more bad luck than bad play that cost them--out number three in the second came on a very nice line drive from Daniel Nava that was hit right at Alfonso Soriano in left, and the Sox had plenty more good swings against Kuroda as the game went on. They just never seemed to find the ground.
That goes a long way towards making Hiroki Kuroda's final line score look like John Lackey's when really they weren't all that close tonight. John Lackey was largely in command, keeping hard contact to a minimum aside from a bizarre blip on the radar when Brendan Ryan took him deep into the monster seats. Other than that, a rare misplay by Shane Victorino and sacrifice fly ended up costing him his only other run in the sixth.
Still, even with a low pitch count, Lackey did seem to be losing it a bit in the sixth, so when he proceeded to give up big hits to two of the three batters he faced in the seventh, it wasn't surprising to see John Farrell pop out of the dugout and go to Craig Breslow. Unfortunately, Craig Breslow just wasn't feeling it tonight. Unable to find the zone, he went to 3-0 against first Curtis Granderson (only getting bailed out when Granderson was rung up on strikes when he clearly checked his swing on a pitch in the dirt) and then Alex Rodriguez, walking Rodriguez to load the bases and then surrendering a ringing two-run double to Robinson Cano. Brandon Workman came in to finish the inning, but by then the damage had been done, and the game was tied.
Which of course led to Jarrod Saltalamacchia untying it shortly thereafter. In the end, it's all about providing an exciting product to the home fans, right? Alright, probably not, but a lot can be forgiven when it ends with an 8-4 win. Even yet another outing for Koji Uehara in a non-save situation. The streak of consecutive batters retired nearly came to an end when Vernon Wells hit a fly ball to deep left, but even that bid died on the track, leaving Koji free to get Granderson well-and-truly swinging this time to make it 37 straight batters retired.
The Red Sox have their 90th win, the magic number is down to seven, and that deep-seated fear of September seems a silly thing from long ago.
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