The Red Sox are 1-0 without A.J. Pierzynski!
Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
In all seriousness, though, the era of slightly better feelings got off to a good start Wednesday night in Fenway Park as the Red Sox staged a late rally against the White Sox, overcoming a 4-0 deficit and snapping a four-game losing streak with a walkoff win.
Up until the very end, this felt like a feel-good kind of loss. Yes, the White Sox may finish the night with more runs, but what are wins worth to the Red Sox in 2014? More important were the individual performances and, considering that they were up against Chris Sale, those weren't too bad on the whole.
Rubby De La Rosa, unfortunately, is not so much part of the "pro" column. The changeup that initially looked like such a weapon for the young righty has seemingly vanished, replaced by a pitch that finds the top half of the zone far too often for something coming in under 90 MPH. It was a high changeup that Jose Dariel Abreu took out of the park in the top of the first, and another which cost him a fourth-inning double to Connor Gillaspie, who would score shortly thereafter. Mix in another homer--also courtesy of Gillaspie--in the second, and you've got a pretty mundane five-inning, three-run effort. De La Rosa was only at 84 pitches, and might well have been able to last a bit longer, but was not given the chance.
But even while Chris Sale was dominating the Red Sox at the plate, Boston's youth movement still gave fans a reason to smile with their performance in the field, saving Rubby De La Rosa from even worse trouble. In the top of the second, it was Jackie Bradley Jr. making an incredible diving grab in right center field to rob Tyler Flowers of extra bases and an RBI. In the bottom of the fourth Christian Vazquez showed off his arm by gunning down Dayan Viciedo at second when he tried to take an extra base on a throw to the plate, and in the seventh he made a perfect tag at home to prevent Alejandro De Aza from scoring on a fly ball misplayed by Jonny Gomes in left.
Most impressive of all, though, was Mookie Betts, who drew a Youkilis-like cheer from the crowd when he doubled to left off Chris Sale in the fifth. Then in the eighth he produced the only other extra-base hit off Chicago's starter in an entirely different fashion, beating out a ground ball and then making a heads-up play by taking second when he realized nobody was covering.
The rare infield double turned out to be the start of something more, too. While Sale quickly retired the next two batters he faced, the White Sox turned to the pen for the last out in the eighth, and it was a long time in coming. The middle of the order finally got things going, with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz connecting for a single and a double, cutting Chicago's lead in half. Mike Napoli drew a walk to keep the inning alive, and Jonny Gomes came through with a double to pull the Red Sox within one heading to the ninth.
There, Mookie Betts was once again in the thick of things, albeit not entirely of his own accord. Instead, he made his third trip onto the basepaths after getting hit by Chicago's Javy Guerra. Still, Betts was able to show off one of his many talents by getting around the bases in a hurry on Daniel Nava's wall ball double, scoring the tying run without so much as a throw home.
That brought up Brock Holt and, if we're talking about big contributions from the youth movement, there's not much question whose name needs to come first. Holt's star has faded slightly from its early-June heights, but tonight it flared back up as bright as ever. With Nava on second, Holt lined a 1-2 fastball just past Gordon Beckham's outstretched glove and into right field. And if Daniel Nava is no Mookie Betts on the bases, he was plenty fast enough to beat a throw from Moises Sierra that pulled Tyler Flowers halfway up the third base line, scoring the winning run and bringing the Red Sox pouring from the dugout.
John Farrell said before the game that the Red Sox were still going out each night not just to work on developing their young core, but also to try to win games. And tonight it was that very core that put the truth to his words.