The Red Sox scored early, and held onto their lead thanks to a strong outing from Jon Lester and a fair few double plays.
So, just how "early" are we talking here? Try before the second out of the game. Exclusively before. That's right, the Red Sox put four in a row on with one man down in the top of the first against Hyu-Jin Ryu, and that was the end of their offense.
The good news for them was that the early attack ended with a bang. After Shane Victorino took a pitch to the side, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli followed up with a pair of singles, bringing Victorino around to score the first run of the game. The next pitch from Ryu, the first to Jonny Gomes, caught too much of the plate, and Gomes put Ryu in a deep hole, blasting a three-run shot to left-center field.
The Red Sox would not be held hitless the rest of the way. They had at least one baserunner in most of the rest of their innings, and actually loaded the bases in the eighth, but as we've seen often enough from the Sox, after getting off to a hot start, the team could never really finish that second rally to build their lead.
But sometimes that first inning is enough, and today was one of those days thanks to Jon Lester. The second-half resurgence of Boston's one time lefty ace (just go with it, people) continued thanks in part to some unconventional double plays. The first would come right away in the bottom half of the first, with Adrian Gonzalez hitting a line drive that Mike Napoli snagged right at first base, instantly doubling up Yasel Puig. The young phenom would againbe the man doubled up in the sixth, this time when he took off for second as Mark Ellis lined out to right field. Finally, in the seventh, it was Juan Uribe hitting one right to Stephen Drew who, already moving towards second, beat Hanley Ramirez in a foot race to make it two.
While all those line drives might make it sound like Lester was getting knocked around, he was actually doing a pretty good job on the whole. With the double plays helping him keep the pitch count low, Lester was able to work deep into the game, getting a fair few strike outs early in the game and coasting into the eighth without a run on the board.
The game would get interesting late for reasons both good and bad. On the one hand, Lester would leave after walking Carl Crawford, and the combination of Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow could only record one out, with the former allowing a single to Puig and the latter giving up a two-run double to Adrian Gonzalez. Not willing to let this one get away, John Farrell turned to Koji for four, and his closer delivered with four outs, the last coming on a great diving play by Dustin Pedroia to stop a ground ball that seemed destined for center field.
That's not all though; the top of the ninth provided an extra bonus. With one down, Xander Bogaerts came up to bat, worked a 2-2 count, then put a 97 MPH fastball on a line to right field for the first hit of his major league career. Not a bad way to end the night on offense.
Slightly worse was Jacoby Ellsbury wandering off of first base shortly after, assuming the inning was over and, in the process, ensuring it was. But the Red Sox won, so we can ignore that.
Read more Red Sox:
- What to do with Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, and Xander Bogaerts in 2014?
- Jacoby Ellsbury's resurgence
- Red Sox lineup rotations a complicated matter
- Will Middlebrooks making the most of his second chance with Red Sox
- Jon Lester's 2013 has been better than you think