Once every decade the planets align, the groundhog sees his shadow, and A.J. Pierzynski somehow becomes the center of a baseball game. Monday night, that happened in Fenway Park, and it was actually a net positive for the Red Sox, who snapped their three-game skid with a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Before this was A.J. Pierzynski's game, though, it was Jackie Bradley Jr.'s. After a weekend of defensive misery in the outfield, Daniel Nava gave Red Sox fans some unfortunate flashbacks by cutting off Grady Sizemore on a line drive single from Alex Rios and turning it into, effectively, a double by booting the ball. That extra base would have cost the Red Sox a run on a sinking line drive from Donnie Murphy had it not been for Bradley, who made an almost casual sliding grab, fighting the lights all the way as he kept John Lackey's shutout intact.
Sure enough, playing into the old trope of following up a big defensive play with a big hit, it was Bradley driving in the game's first run in the bottom half of the second, singling up the middle to bring Xander Bogaerts home from third. But how did Bogaerts get there? On a successful hit-and-run from A.J. Pierzynski.
That would hardly be the only involvement from either player. Both men finished the game with three hits, with Pierzynski scoring twice, and Bradley collecting one of his own while driving in two. So what makes this Pierzynski's game more than Bradley's? Well, because he was also part of the Rangers' run, allowing a pair of runners to advance on a passed ball, leading to a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
That, however, was the only damage that the Rangers would manage against John Lackey, who only ever faced real trouble in that second inning, and a seventh which saw him work around his only two walks of the night. Still, with Boston receiving little contribution from the top of the order, it wouldn't be until the eighth that their lead became comfortable.
There, we once again set the stage with A.J. Pierzynski, whose third single of the game gave the Red Sox a leadoff runner. Just wanting the one run, the Red Sox were determined to trade outs to advance their runner, but the Rangers would have none of it. Jonathan Herrera squared to bunt once, twice, three times, taking balls one, two, and three before finally letting Seth Rosin have his way with a four-pitch walk. Jackie Bradley came up, squared, took ball one, then got pitch two down perfectly between the first and second basemen and the pitcher. Bradley asked the question of the defense, and the defense crumbled, letting the young outfielder reach base and Pierzynski score. With hard contact from Daniel Nava finally producing results behind him, the Red Sox took a 5-1 lead into the ninth. Too easy for Koji Uehara.
It's an unusual day when the 7-8-9 combo of A.J. Pierzynski, Jonathan Herrera, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are the ones getting the job done. But with John Lackey coming up big as well, they managed to carry the Red Sox the rest of the way to a much-needed victory.