They endured poor middle relief, coughed up a five-run lead, but in the end, Curt Schilling's two shutout innings and Edgar Renteria's redeeming moment produced a victory.
Renteria's single down the left-field line scored Bill Mueller and gave the Red Sox an 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers last night at Fenway Park. The marathon win lasted 4 hours and 13 minutes, and coupled with a 2-1 Yankee loss to Chicago, it allowed Boston to open a 4 1/2-game lead in the AL East over New York.
Renteria had committed two errors -- giving him 22 for the season -- and had gone 0 for 5 before working the count to 3-and-2 and pulling a Kevin Gryboski sinker down the line.
''I have a lot of confidence in that situation," Renteria said. ''I felt bad all game because I made two errors and I really wanted Matt Clement to get a win."
Renteria's clutch hit bailed out new reliever Mike Remlinger and Chad Bradford, who gave up five runs in the seventh inning, wiping out a 7-2 lead the Sox had built for Clement.
''I've seen him do that a lot in the National League," said Schilling. ''He's always been known for good at-bats after the seventh inning."
Mueller started the winning rally with a leadoff single to center field. A perfectly executed bunt by Alex Cora -- a play perhaps as important as Renteria's single -- moved Mueller to second. The Rangers didn't mess with Johnny Damon, who had a pair of hits to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, and walked him intentionally to get to Renteria.
''I battled him as best I could in that at-bat," said Renteria. ''Thankfully I got a sinker, and I got lucky on a 3-and-2 pitch and I was able to get the run in."
The Rangers had some good whacks at Schilling, including a double by Rod Barajas over Damon's head to the triangle in the 10th with one out. But Schilling got out of it. A long fly to center advanced the runner to third, but Schilling got Michael Young to chase a splitter in the dirt for strike three.
''I assumed I was going to stay in the game as long as it took," said Schilling. ''I was prepared to go out there again, and I feel I can go out there again tomorrow if I have to."
Remlinger, the Plymouth native acquired from the Cubs yesterday, came on to relieve Clement (six innings, two runs) to start the seventh. With the 7-2 lead, he threw 27 pitches, faced four batters, and didn't record an out.
He allowed a leadoff double to Dave Dellucci, then threw a wild pitch that advanced Dellucci to third. After Young walked, Mark Teixiera came through with an RBI single, making it 7-3.
''I actually thought [Remlinger] looked a little jumpy to me, which is understandable," said manager Terry Francona. ''Teixeira had one of the best at-bats you'll see. He hung a breaking ball to Dellucci to start the inning. It certainly didn't work the way we drew it up."
With two on and no outs, a controversial play came next. Mueller fielded Hank Blalock's grounder at third and threw to Renteria for the force at second. But the ball came loose as Renteria was trying to turn the double play, and umpire Bill Miller ruled the runner safe.
Francona argued long and hard that Renteria had possession long enough, but the umpire would have none of it. While on the field, Francona gave Remlinger the hook. Chad Bradford came on and allowed a single to Alfonso Soriano to drive in the second run of the inning. Ground-ball outs by Phil Nevin and Kevin Mench also produced runs. After Bradford walked Gary Matthews intentionally, Barajas doubled in the tying run.
The five-run rally matched the total the Sox had put up in the fifth inning, seemingly breaking the game open. Roberto Petagine had the big hit off reliever Doug Brocail, a two-out, bases-loaded double down the third base line that scored two runs and made it 6-2.
''I'm just looking to drive the ball somewhere," Petigine said. ''That's a big situation where you want to do somethging to help the team."
Prior to that, Manny Ramirez had stroked a RBI single to center off Rangers starter Joaquin Benoit to break a 2-2 tie. Damon had beaten out an infield hit and David Ortiz had walked.
After Ramirez's hit, Jason Varitek greeted Brocail with a double to the left-field corner that scored Ortiz. After Kevin Millar worked a walk (nearly hitting both foul poles, left and right), Petagine delivered.
The Sox weren't done, though. Mueller drew a walk and No. 9 hitter Alex Cora was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded, forcing in the seventh Boston run.
The Sox scored first on Mueller's home run to lead off the third inning. It came a day after he was scratched from the lineup because of back spasms.
The Rangers were able to tie it after a Renteria error on what should have been the third out in the fourth inning, on a routine grounder by Nevin. That gave the Rangers 13 extra swings against Clement, and they got a run when Kevin Mench singled Nevin to third and Gary Matthews reached on an infield hit.
Clement pitched his best game since the All-Star break, but there was one brief moment of concern. In the sixth inning, he was struck on the backside by Matthews's sharp one-hopper. Clement, who took a liner off the head in Tampa July 26, got up with a smile on his face, but the Sox medical staff came out anyway.
Clement took a warmup pitch, then struck out Barajas to end the inning. He did not come out for the seventh, but with a 7-2 lead and his pitch total well over 100, it was likely his last inning anyway.