Power ball pays off in a big way for Sox
The Red Sox have been consigned to third place in the American League East, the younger and more dynamic Tampa Bay Rays having taken their place as the biggest threats to the Yankees in the division.
That is the conventional wisdom; a thought only strengthened when the Sox staggered through the first week of the season then lost leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury to a shoulder injury.
“I think we all know how it looks. But you can’t give up in this game or in anything in life,’’ third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. “We’ve all played this game long enough that we know things can turn around. You just need to have some confidence.’’
The Sox continued to fight back against their diminished expectations on Saturday, hitting five home runs and again pounding the Rays, this time 13-5 before a crowd of 38,024 that enjoyed a sunny day and plenty of big swings.
Down by four runs early, the Sox hit five home runs in their comeback - three more than they had in their first seven games. They have outscored the Rays, 25-7, in the last two days.
“That was fun. What a great game for us,’’ said new center fielder Cody Ross, who had a two-run double in the seventh inning and a two-run homer in the eighth. “One through nine, that was a good team effort.’’
Mike Aviles, batting leadoff in place of Ellsbury, was 3 for 5 and scored two runs. His solo home run in the seventh inning gave the Sox their first lead.
David Ortiz was 4 for 5 with five RBIs. He had a two-run homer in the fifth to tie the game after the Sox were down, 5-2, then added a three-run double to the opposite field in the eighth.
“We have to keep on rolling,’’ said Ortiz, who is hitting .406. “Definitely it’s going to hurt us not having Ells in our lineup. We’re going to miss him a lot. But we can come out and produce like we did today.’’
It was the second consecutive win for the Sox, an unpretentious streak to be sure. But they had not won two straight since sweeping a doubleheader from Oakland Aug. 27.
“I think I’ve forgotten everything about last year,’’ Youkilis said. “But you have to start somewhere.’’
Clay Buchholz (1-0) went seven innings for the victory. He, Franklin Morales, and Alfredo Aceves did not allow a run over the final six innings and retired the final 14 batters in a row.
It was an unlikely victory for Buchholz, who gave up four runs in the first inning and had thrown 43 pitches before the second inning was finished. But he regained the feel for his offspeed and breaking pitches and breezed through five more innings, allowing one run.
“If you ask any of the starters on this team, it’s all about winning,’’ Buchholz said. “You don’t want to give up runs or walk guys, but it’s always the result you look at.’’
Said manager Bobby Valentine: “He never gave up. That was an easy one, not only Buch but for this entire team, pack up the toolbox and go home. They kept working.’’
Buchholz pitched poorly in his first start of the season, giving up seven runs in four innings against the Tigers. It was more of the same in the first inning against the Rays.
After Carlos Pena’s RBI double, Buchholz got two outs then walked Ben Zobrist on four pitches.
Luke Scott, who has made a habit out of trashing Red Sox fans and Fenway Park, was booed as he came to the plate and responded with a three-run homer to right field.
The rally was powered by home runs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1 for 13 on the season, pounded a changeup from Jeremy Hellickson off the black tarp over the bleacher seats in center field to account for two runs.
Dustin Pedroia had a rocket to left field in the third inning, his second of the year. Ortiz tied the game at 5 in the fifth with a blast into the Red Sox bullpen after Youkilis had singled.
Aviles gave the Sox their first lead when he drove a slider from Burke Badenhop (0-1) just off the top of the Green Monster. The ball popped straight up and over the wall. The fans signaled it was a home run before third base umpire Tony Randazzo made the same call.
“I had a few of those in spring training where it didn’t get over,’’ Aviles said. “I’m glad this wall is a little shorter.’’
Ross and Ortiz then padded the lead.
“We’re just taking it one pitch at a time and trying to do the little things to start it and, hopefully, mix in a walk and a big hit in there,’’ Pedroia said. “We’ve been able to do that the last couple of days.’’