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Red Sox 4, Marlins 2: Red Sox need 13 innings to win their fifth straight

It wasn’t a perfect game, but a win is a win.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This has not been a perfect start to the season for the Red Sox, and this 13-inning victory was not a perfect performance for the team. The offense has been disappointing for the majority of this season-starting road trip, and J.D. Martinez in particular has been a little disappointing. It doesn’t help that he also made a rough defensive play in this game that led to a run. Boston also had some major issues on the bases on Tuesday, carrying over one of the most frustrating aspects of 2017.

Despite all of that, this team is 5-1 because the pitching has been phenomenal and the offense has come through when it counts. Xander Bogaerts was the man in Tampa Bay, and Hanley Ramirez was the man for this two-game stint in Miami. The Red Sox have things to work on, but it’s April 3. Everyone has things to work on. In the meantime, they have five wins banked in six games. That’s a very good thing.

This outing for Chris Sale was very similar to his first of 2018, for better or for worse. The Red Sox ace certainly got good results and certainly deserved to come away with the victory, but his teammates let him down. The first time it was the bullpen, this time it was the offense. Also like the first time, it wasn’t exactly the best version of Sale we’d ever seen. He was still outstanding, of course, but his command seemed off in a way that it wasn’t very often for the early parts of 2017 and he seemed to be relying on his slower fastball — in the 90-92 mph range — more than the big-time heat. Of course, that very well could have been on purpose. Additionally, as it was in the first start and for every start for the Red Sox so far this year, Cora got him out early. Sale threw only 93 pitches in this game after throwing just 92 in his first.

The early parts of this game were particularly laborious for Sale, and he exited the first inning with almost 30 pitches already under his belt. The Marlins were able to work some tremendous at bats in this inning, though they only got one baserunner. Starlin Castro was the one Marlin to reach base in the first inning, and he did so on an infield single that capped off an impressive 11-pitch at bat.

Things looked like they might get away from Sale again in the second, but he got some help from his defense as well as from some absurdly bad baserunning by the Marlins. The inning started when Justin Bour hit a weak fly ball out to center field and Jackie Bradley Jr. made his first great catch of 2018. The defensive superstar laid out on a ball he had no business getting to and made the catch with full-extension.

Sale then allowed a single to Cameron Maybin, but the Marlins outfielder gave the out right back when Miguel Rojas hit a fly ball to right field. Maybin was off on the pitch, and Eduardo Nuñez pretended that he was getting a throw down and even applied a fake tag. This caused Maybin — who didn’t even glance at the batter through all of this — to slide into second base, giving Martinez an easy opportunity to double him up at first base.

After Sale got through an easy 1-2-3 third, more trouble was around the corner in the fourth and we saw our fears with Martinez in the outfield. The Red Sox ace was able to eliminate a leadoff single with a double play, but then allowed another single. That brought Bour back up, and he hit a fly ball to right field. It looked like a ball that most outfielders would get to, but Martinez showed off a lack of range and took a really poor route to the ball. It fell in, Bour had a double and the Marlins scored their first run of the game. From there, Sale got a strikeout to end the inning and came through with a 1-2-3 fifth to end his outing. It wasn’t his best day, but it speaks volumes that he was still able to get through five allowing only one run — that came from some poor defense, at that — with six strikeouts. Hopefully we’ll see a sharper version of the ace next time out, and more importantly hopefully his teammates will pick him up.

The offense, as mentioned, was anemic for the majority of this game. It actually seemed like they’d be able to pick up where they left off in the first game of this series as the Red Sox made Jose Ureña work plenty in the first inning on Tuesday. Andrew Benintendi got things started with a one-out walk and then he immediately took second on a stolen base. After Ramirez recorded the second out, Martinez came through with a scorched single to bring in the run and give the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead.

As it turns out, that was all the lineup would do for a while. After that RBI single, Ureña settled in big-time and retired ten Red Sox in a row to get him through four innings. The Marlins starter certainly deserves some credit for good pitching, but in addition to that Boston’s hitters just looked out of sorts and not ready for anything. Rafael Devers got the team back on the bases with a leadoff double in the fifth, immediately following the Marlins tying up the game. It looked like the Red Sox might be ready to take that lead right back, but then they decided to do that thing where they make bad choices on the basepaths. Christian Vazquez followed up the double with a grounder back to the pitcher, and for some reason Devers took off for third on contact. Ureña made an easy throw to third and Devers was out by a fairly significant margin. It’s the kind of mistake you just can’t make on the bases and it ruined what looked like a promising inning. The sixth also looked promising with back-to-back one-out singles in front of Martinez, but the slugger grounded into an inning-ending double play in the RBI opportunity.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

That brought us to the Red Sox bullpen, and Bobby Poyner had the first crack at holding on to the tie game and giving the Red Sox a chance to put together a late rally and still come away with victory. The rookie southpaw put forth a strong sixth, striking out the first two batters he faced and getting out of it with a 1-2-3 inning. He’d come back out for the seventh, and after two outs to start things off he allowed a single, leading Alex Cora to call upon Carson Smith. He’d allow Maybin to steal second to start off his appearance (he was originally called out on the steal, but replay showed that Nuñez never got the tag down), but then came through with a huge strikeout to escape the inning with the score still tied at one.

That brought up the Red Sox offense with a chance to do some damage with Ureña finally removed from the game, and Bradley started things off with a big swing that resulted in a leadoff double. Once again, though, bad baserunning got in the way of a leadoff double. Bradley would get moved to third on a deep fly out, then Nuñez hit a ground ball to second base. Bradley was off on contact, but the ball went right to Castro and the Marlins got the out at the plate on a close play. There’s something to be said for going for it in a low-scoring game, but with the top of the order up I just hate going to the contact play in this situation. Of course, they had to end the inning with an out on the bases, too, and Nuñez did that by getting caught stealing on an attempt that wasn’t even close. Fun stuff!

After that disaster of an inning, the Red Sox sent Joe Kelly out for the bottom half. Fortunately, there wasn’t much stress this time around as he got a 1-2-3 inning with the final out coming on an outstanding leaping snag by Devers. After the Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, Kelly came back out for the bottom half looking to avoid a Marlins walkoff. He did walk a batter in this one and struggled to find the zone more than he did in his first inning, but he held the Marlins off one more time to send this one to extras.

Both teams then failed to score in the tenth — Craig Kimbrel threw for the Red Sox and got into some trouble but never broke — bringing the Red Sox back up for the eleventh. Mookie Betts led off in a pinch-hitting appearance, and the star outfielder put a charge into on out to straightaway center. It had the distance for a home run, but Lewis Brinson made an outstanding grab to get up and bring it back into the field of play. The Red Sox kept the hard hits coming, though, with Nuñez ripping a double into the left field corner. That brought up Andrew Benintendi, who had already reached base twice in this game, and the left fielder smacked a single into right field to score the go-ahead run.

That brought Matt Barnes in to try and lock down this save in the kind of spot -- high-leverage on the road — in which he struggled a year ago. As it turns out, this wasn’t much different. After getting two quick outs, the wheels fell off for the righty. He walked the next two batters he faced before allowing Maybin to smoke a double to deep left field. Fortunately, only one run scored as Benintendi cut down the winning run at the plate, in what was a huge play that saved the game, and we headed towards the twelfth.

After an uneventful 12th, the Red Sox once again took a lead in the 13th. Much like last time, this one started with Betts, except he didn’t get robbed this time around. Instead, he smacked a single and then moved to second on a groundout from Nuñez. That gave Benintendi another chance for a go-ahead RBI, but he was intentionally walked after working a 2-0 count. That brought up Ramirez, and Hanley did another Fun Hanley thing. He didn’t leave the yard, but he smoked a double into left-center field to score two and give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead. Don’t intentionally walk hitters ahead of a locked-in Hanley, kids.

That would bring out Heath Hembree for his second inning of work looking to lock down the game. This effort went better than that of Barnes’. Hembree did allow a one-out single in the inning, but that was it. It took a while and there were plenty of frustrating moments, but the Red Sox have won five in a row heading into their home opener.

After all of this, the Red Sox are fortunate to have a break coming up on Wednesday. They’ll be traveling up the East Coast back to Boston for their home opener on Thursday at 2:05 PM ET. David Price will take the mound for the Red Sox, and it appears Tampa will be going with another bullpen day.