Red Sox offense shows signs of life
It was the kind of game the Red Sox dreamed of all winter and mysteriously have yet to play very often.
Adrian Gonzalez drove in three runs with a shot off the wall. Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury had multiple hits. David Ortiz added a loud home run and all Dustin Pedroia did was have a legendary at-bat.
Last night’s 9-5 victory against the Los Angeles Angels before a crowd of 37,017 at Fenway Park featured all that and more.
It left one wondering how the Red Sox are 13-15.
“It’s a nice way to play the game,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “It took us a while to do it.’’
A day after winning a game started by reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, the Sox found a way to beat Jered Weaver, who appears determined to wrest that award away from King Felix.
Weaver was 6-0, having allowed just five earned runs over 45 2/3 innings. But he lasted only six innings, giving up three runs on six hits.
Weaver had been scheduled to face the Rays on Sunday but was pushed back a day because of a stomach virus. Fenway Park also makes him sick. Weaver is 1-3 with a 7.16 earned run average in six career starts on Yawkey Way.
Pedroia pinned this loss on him. With the Sox trailing, 2-1, in the fifth inning, Crawford doubled to left field, the ball rolling to the wall as Vernon Wells pursued it with the gait of an old man walking his dog.
After Jason Varitek drew a walk, Ellsbury grounded into a force at second.
Then came an at-bat Pedroia and Weaver won’t soon forget.
Pedroia saw 13 pitches, fouling off nine of them, including seven with two strikes. Ellsbury stole second on the seventh pitch, then he and Crawford scored when Pedroia grounded a fastball up the middle.
“He has a way of doing that,’’ Francona said. “He fights. He never gives in. He’s a ballplayer.’’
Weaver threw Pedroia everything he had: four fastballs, three sliders, three cutters, and three changeups. Pedroia fouled one of the pitches off the shield protecting his surgically repaired left foot. It didn’t deter him.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,’’ Crawford said. “He must have fouled off five or six great pitches.’’
Pedroia first faced Weaver when both were in college, the second baseman at Arizona State and the righthander at Cal State Long Beach. Pedroia was only 3 for 24 against him in the majors.
“To be honest with you, man, I was just trying to put the ball in play,’’ Pedroia said. “Jered’s tough. It doesn’t get any better than him. I haven’t won too many of those. It’s nice to drive in a couple.’’
Pedroia didn’t allow himself to guess at what was coming. His only chance was to react to what he saw out of Weaver’s hand.
“See it, hit it. There’s really nothing else you can do,’’ said Pedroia, who saw 23 of the 118 pitches Weaver threw.
The Sox, ahead 3-2, scored six runs in the seventh off Hisanori Takahashi and Francisco Rodriguez. Gonzalez hit the Green Monster for the first time this season, driving a three-run double to left-center. Kevin Youkilis followed with an RBI double and Ortiz with a two-run homer over the wall.
“Keep the line moving, spread a game out, and have a nice big inning,’’ Francona said.
Ortiz had gone 88 at-bats without a home run, the last coming on April 2.
“Finally got one,’’ Ortiz said. “That was nice. That was a great inning for us.’’
Perhaps playing the Angels is what helped. The Sox are 5-0 against Los Angeles this season and 14-1 over the last two years.
The big inning secured the victory for Clay Buchholz (2-3), who pitched effectively into the seventh. Like Weaver, he had been pushed back from his start because of the bug.
“Glad I got the challenge of going out there against him,’’ said Buchholz, who allowed two runs on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
The Angels took advantage of poor control by Buchholz in the fifth inning to take a 2-1 lead.
Erick Aybar singled to right before Buchholz walked Jeff Mathis, a .180 hitter who had walked once in 55 plate appearances. With one out, Maicer Izturis walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Bobby Abreu followed with a ground ball up the middle that was deflected by Buchholz. Pedroia, moving to his right, changed direction, and was able to stop the ball with a dive and flipped to second for a force play.
A run scored but Pedroia’s play kept Mathis at third. Howie Kendrick grounded to third to end the inning.
“That play was huge because it kept us right there,’’ Crawford said. “We did everything tonight. We had pitching, a lot of guys hitting, and good defense. This is the way we we’re supposed to play. I hope this is the start of something great.’’