Closing Time: Punchless Red Sox scrape together unlikely extra-inning win over White Sox

April 16, 2014 - 9:28 pm

Just win, baby. The Red Sox could not have concocted a much uglier formula for victory. After the first three batters of the game collected hits, the Red Sox went just 3-for-40 over the duration of the game (with the first two of those hits being of the infield variety). They blew a save in the 11th inning. They spoiled another rally by grounding into a double play. Yet the White Sox kept handing Boston opportunities, issuing 15 free passes, and while it wasn't pretty, the Sox managed a slow-motion rally that featured sacrifice flies in the eighth, ninth and 11th innings before Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-out, two-run double in the top of the 14th finally against White Sox position player Leury Garcia -- making his first pro pitching appearance on the mound -- propelled the Red Sox to a 6-4 victory. The star of the victory was the Red Sox bullpen, which allowed one run over the final eight innings. The win permitted the Sox to avoid their first four-game losing streak since 2012. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- The bullpen had an outstanding night. Craig Breslow struck out a pair in 1 1/3 scoreless innings, throwing 11 of 13 pitches for strikes and showing good action on his complete pitch mix. Junichi Tazawa retired both batters he faced. And Andrew Miller was dominant, throwing two innings and allowing just one hit while punching out three. That group had the Sox positioned to win before Edward Mujica uncharacteristically issued a leadoff walk in the 11th that burned him, coming around to score with two outs for a blown save. But Chris Capuano followed Mujica's inning with 2 2/3 innings in which he permitted just one single while striking out three to earn the victory. Burke Badenhop came on to retire the last batter of the game for the save. -- For the first time in 2014, the Red Sox received an extra-base hit from their first batter of the game, as Dustin Pedroia led off the game with a double. The double to left was of course doubly significant for Pedroia, given that it punctuated the idea that he can play through his left wrist inflammation while still being able to impact the ball. It was Pedroia's fourth double of the year. He later collected an infield single and walked twice, his first free passes of the 2014 season. -- The Red Sox finally scored a first-inning run, becoming the last team in the majors to do so, when Xander Bogaerts' single scored Pedroia. It was the first RBI of the year for the Sox' shortstop, who reached base five times, adding a pair of walks and a pair of hit by pitches to his hit. Bogaerts is now hitting .264 with a .391 OBP. Adding to the firsts, Bogaerts swiped his first base of the season. -- Clay Buchholz kept the White Sox off balance for most of the night, until shortstop Alexei Ramirez homered against him in the sixth (the only extra-base hit permitted by the Sox starter in the entire game). Though Buchholz needed 31 pitches to navigate through the elongated first inning, he managed to deliver six innings in which he permitted three runs (two earned) on six hits while walking two and striking out six. It was his second straight outing of six innings and two earned runs allowed. However, he appeared to tire down the stretch. His fastball -- which had reached as high as 93 mph in the first four innings -- lost steam in his fifth and sixth frames, with Ramirez going deep on an 88 mph offering. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- The usual: The Sox were 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position, a circumstance in which they are now hitting .184 this year. Even as the White Sox tried gamely to give the game away, walking 15 batters (including six combined in the eighth and ninth innings), the absence of hits left the Sox once again scratching their heads about missed opportunities. -- The impact of injuries on the Red Sox defense was underscored with an unearned run in the first inning. Daniel Nava -- pressed into duty at first with Mike Napoli recovering from a dislocated finger -- could not corral a pickoff attempt at first, permitting a runner to enter into scoring position. Then, after Buchholz induced a two-out grounder that should have ended the inning, third baseman Ryan Roberts -- playing the position typically occupied by Will Middlebrooks -- bounced the throw, and Nava couldn't catch or block it, permitting an unearned run to cross the plate. While the error on the run-scoring play was rightly charged to Roberts, Nava's inability to handle a bounced throw represented the second costly instance of that shortcoming in as many days, with Mike Carp having been unable to handle a game-ending throw from Xander Bogaerts. Napoli, in all likelihood, would have been able to block the throws, if not pick them to record the outs. -- The fifth through ninth spots in the Red Sox lineup combined to go 1-for-26. -- Edward Mujica, given a save opportunity in the 11th inning (on his final day as fill-in closer with Koji Uehara working his way back from shoulder stiffness), could not secure the victory. He issued a leadoff walk -- a rarity for a pitcher with one of the best strikeout-to-walk rates in baseball history -- that came back to haunt him when a weakly hit grounder up the middle with two outs found an avenue to plate the game-tying run.