Closing Time: Rubby De La Rosa, Brock Holt unlikely stars as Red Sox rout Rays

May 31, 2014 - 6:22 pm

The Red Sox have been besieged by injuries. But with the absence of regulars has come opportunities. And on Saturday, the Red Sox claimed a 7-1 victory against the Rays largely on the strength of two players whose presence in the big leagues owed only to injuries to mainstays. Brock Holt continued his surprising emergence as a player of somewhat critical importance on the Red Sox roster, as the leadoff hitter and third baseman made a game-changing two-way contribution. Holt made a spectacular play to keep the Rays off the board in the top of the second, diving and reaching back towards the outfield on the backhand to spear a grounder destined for the left field corner with runners on the corners and two outs; instead of a one- or two-run double, Holt's strong throw nipped Sean Rodriguez at first for the third out. One inning later, Holt ripped a fastball from Rays starter Jake Odorizzi into the Red Sox bullpen for his first big league homer and a 2-0 lead. That, in turn, would be all that Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa -- called up to fill in for the injured Clay Buchholz -- would need on a night when he was absolutely dominant. De La Rosa ended up pitching seven shutout innings in which the Rays hit just one ball into the outfield in his final four innings. He matched a career-high with eight strikeouts, didn't walk anyone (the second time in his 11 big league starts that he put up a goose egg in that category) and elicited 11 more outs via groundball, including an inning-ending double play to wrap up his night. With unexpected contributors like Holt and De La Rosa giving the Sox depth that was often missing this year, the Sox now find themselves amidst a fairly dramatic pendular swing. A team that left Tampa Bay last Sunday with 10 straight losses hanging over them has now won six straight.  WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- De La Rosa suggested in early May that he was throwing the ball better than at any point in his pro career. "Right now, I feel better [than in 2011]," he said. "In 2011, I kept the fastball up. Right now, I feel like anything I want -- if I want the fastball down, I can do it. In 2011, I felt good. All that year was great. But my feeling this year, I feel more positive, more healthy. "œI feel good. I feel ready. There'€™s no more [concern] about my arm," he added. "I feel prepared for that moment [in the big leagues]. I feel like how I felt before. My arm feels 100 percent. I feel good in my body, mentally, physically. I feel good for that moment. Right now, I feel 200 percent. I feel like everything is going in the right spot." He backed up that claim by working down in the strike zone for the entirety of his start on Saturday, permitting him to be not just dominant but efficient. De La Rosa matched his career-long in innings (7) while requiring just 105 pitches to do so. -- Holt's first major league homer came in his 233rd career plate appearance. He went 2-for-4 to lift his average to .305 with a .352 OBP. -- Xander Bogaerts remained torrid, reaching base three times by going 1-for-3 with a double and two walks (one intentional). He's now reached base at least three times in four straight games -- tied for the longest streak by a Sox player since Jason Bay had a five-gamer in 2009. Since then, only one other Red Sox -- Dustin Pedroia, who has done it three times -- has a stretch of four straight games reaching base three times. The run has elevated Bogaerts' OBP to .397. On the current Red Sox homestand, Bogaerts is 10-for-16 with four doubles and three walks, a .588/.650/.824 line. In his last 14 games, he's hitting .429 with a .492 OBP and a .661. -- Jonathan Herrera, who hadn't collected a hit since May 7, amassed three of them, his first multi-hit game since last September when he was still with the Rockies. He scored two runs and drove in one. -- A.J. Pierynski went 2-for-4 to improve to 8-for-17 on the homestand. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- David Ortiz went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. -- Alex Wilson lost the shutout when he gave up a number of rockets in the eighth inning -- one an inside-the-park homer by Kevin Kiermaier on which the carom off the scoreboard in center slammed into the face of Jackie Bradley Jr., another on a play where Xander Bogaerts made a diving catch as well as a double off the Green Monster by David DeJesus. After a trainer visited Bradley, he stayed in the game.