The Red Sox have their first series win in the bag courtesy first and foremost of another big night from Xander Bogaerts, who's making this whole MLB thing look mighty easy.
"Waste" is going to become a bit of a buzzword around Boston if the Red Sox continue to leave as many men on as they did in the first series of the year. Those missed opportunities sunk the Sox on Opening Day, and they wasted no time showing up in the series finale. Jonny Gomes, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz all put good swings on Wei-Yin Chen to start the night, with Gomes and Ortiz managing to reach base with line drive singles. But all it took was one swing from Mike Napoli to turn a dangerous inning into little more than an exercise in driving up the pitch count, courtesy of a 6-4-3 double play.
As if that wasn't frustrating enough, the Red Sox would repeat the performance in the second inning. This time, though, Will Middlebrooks would at least choose a more opportune moment. With one out and a combination of Xander Bogaerts and Daniel Nava on the corners, Middlebrooks offered up the 2-for-1 exchange, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead even as a dangerous inning paid out a relatively light reward. With Felix Doubront working quickly in the first three innings, the Red Sox would also be the ones to draw second blood. With Jackie Bradley Jr. on first, David Ortiz floated a fly ball to shallow left that got past a diving Nelson Cruz. Never letting off the gas for a second, Bradley came all the way around to score Boston's second run of the night.
Just as it looked like the Red Sox were going to pull away, going ahead 3-0 in the third, Felix Doubront fell off the rails in the blink of an eye. Swinging at the first strikes they saw, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters put a sudden beating on Doubront with two balls to the wall in center and right field respectively. Delmon Young followed suit with a single, and the three-run lead shrank suddenly to one.
The attack would end as suddenly as it began, Doubront striking out Jonathan Schoop to send the game to the fifth, where he recovered with a tidy 1-2-3 frame. But after Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley combined to produce a fourth Boston run, Doubront surrendered a lead off single to Chris Davis, and was pulled after a tense at bat against Adam Jones resulted, mercifully, in an easy fly ball out. Unfortunately for Felix, his replacement in Brandon Workman wasn't quite up to the task of keeping Davis from coming around to score, allowing the run to come in on a wild pitch ball four to, of all people, Delmon Young.
The rest of Boston's relief work, however, went according to plan. Chris Capuano worked a quick seventh, needing just 11 pitches in his Red Sox debut. Junichi Tazawa escaped some small trouble in the eighth with some help from a highlight reel play from who else but Xander Bogaerts, who ranged well to his right before snapping off a throw to second base to get the lead runner in Adam Jones. And of course, at the end, a seven-pitch save for Koji Uehara, who is as reliable as any reliever in baseball right now.
When a team loses, 2-for-10 with RISP and nine men left on base might be seen as concerning. When a team wins in spite of those figures, though, it's really hard to see it as anything but a sign of even better things to come. The Red Sox put together 14 hits on the night, including three from both David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts, and two--crucially--from bottom-of-the-order hitters Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr. The heart of the lineup has been producing all along, but getting some offense from those guys in the 7-9 spots can only help.
The Sox will head back home with the very early lead in the AL East for a Friday afternoon ring ceremony.