The 2014 Red Sox are a winning basesball team once more! For the first time since 2-1, the Red Sox are not simply at .500, but above it, having secured a third straight series win with a 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers Sunday afternoon.
While the Sox were trounced in the opening matchup featuring Yu Darvish and Clay Buchholz, positive pitching matchups in games two and three promised a good chance for such a rebound. Jon Lester took care of business against Martin Perez Saturday, leaving only the lopsided John Lackey vs. Robbie Ross Jr. competition.
From the very beginning, the difference in quality shone through. Ross was the victim of some very early offense from the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a double, and while the Red Sox gifted the Rangers an out with a sacrifice bunt from Shane Victorino, Texas returned the favor by intentionally walking David Ortiz in his first at bat of the game. That decision proved costly, with Mike Napoli doubling over a lunging Alex Rios' head and Pierzynski lining a single to right, leaving the Rangers in an early 3-0 hole.
Boston's second sacrifice bunt made a little more sense than the first. It came in the second inning off the bat of Jonathan Herrera, moving Jackie Bradley Jr. to third for the top of the lineup. He would score on Shane Victorino's fielder's choice ground out to make it 4-0 in favor of the Red Sox.
John Lackey, on the other hand, was putting up zeroes. If he wasn't quite pitching like he did against New York, if his secondary offerings weren't fully under control, Lackey more than made up for it with his heater, freezing the Rangers at the plate as he moved the pitch all over the zone. The fourth inning brought him some trouble, with a Shin-Soo Choo leadoff homer and a pair of singles, but he escaped without allowing a second run in the frame.
The Sox did not exactly manage to sustain their hot start against Ross, but Dustin Pedroia made up for the Choo homer with one of his own in the top of the seventh, finally chasing Ross from the game with his fifth earned run of the night. The Rangers responded in the bottom half of the inning with an Alex Rios single and Mitch Moreland double, but Lackey got both Leonys Martin and Rougned Odor to swing through cutters, picking up strikeouts eight and nine to end both the inning and his day.
From there, it was just a matter of Andrew Miller and Koji Uehara holding a three-run lead. Not hard work for the reliable back-end of Boston's bullpen. The Red Sox are off for Minnesota now, and will fly into the Twin Cities as a winning baseball team.