Red Sox piece it together in Philly
PHILADELPHIA - The Red Sox had their first baseman in right field Saturday night and their designated hitter took a rare turn at first base despite a case of stomach flu.
The catcher played a day after he got knocked in the side of the head with a ball and needed 12 stitches to piece together his left ear.
There was a rookie at third base, an independent league discovery in left field, and the bench was short a player because of an injury. The starting pitcher had a sore back.
Oh, and they were playing on the road against a team with the longest active winning streak in the game.
“It was very entertaining,’’ said David Ortiz after the Red Sox found a way to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-5.
Ortiz, the reluctant first baseman with a queasy stomach, hit a two-run homer. The rookie, Will Middlebrooks, had a solo shot. So did the catcher with the mangled ear, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Mike Aviles led off the game with a home run and started three double plays from shortstop. Adrian Gonzalez, playing right field for the fourth time in his career, made two nice catches.
The Sox also benefited from one of the best defensive plays of the season, a spectacular diving catch by center fielder Ryan Sweeney in the seventh inning that saved two runs.
“That was a complete ballgame,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine, whose team has won seven of its last nine games and is starting to develop a likable personality.
“It was a good win for us tonight to be able to grind that one out and be on top,’’ said Jon Lester, who went six innings for the win despite a sore back.
Lester improved to 3-0 with a 1.67 earned run average in four career starts against the Phillies, all coming at Citizens Bank Park. But this game was a fight for him as he allowed four runs on eight hits.
The big lefthander said his back was not a concern but he groaned a few minutes later when he dropped his cellphone and bent over to pick it up.
“I thought Jon gave us everything he had,’’ said Valentine, who pulled Lester after 90 pitches.
Lester had a 7-4 lead thanks to the four home runs allowed by Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton in the first five innings. Lester stayed in for the sixth and gave up two hits before Aviles and Dustin Pedroia turned a slick double play.
Vicente Padilla started the seventh and gave up a pair of one-out singles. He struck out the dangerous Hunter Pence but threw a 59-mile-per-hour eephus pitch to Carlos Ruiz that was hammered to the gap in right-center.
Sweeney, starting in center field for the sixth time this season, turned and ran the ball down before diving and plucking it out of the air.
“It saved the game. That’s a highlight-reel catch,’’ Valentine said.
“Incredible,’’ said Daniel Nava, who was watching from left.
Sweeney, long an underrated defensive player, didn’t go that far, saying it was simply one of his better grabs.
“I thought I could catch it right off the bat and kept going after it,’’ he said. “I had to run a long ways for that ball.’’
Sweeney wrenched his neck when he landed on the warning track and had a headache after the game. But it was worth it.
The Phillies scored a run on three hits and a walk in the eighth inning as Padilla and Alfredo Aceves were roughed up. But Aceves left the bases loaded and survived two singles in the ninth inning.
A third double play helped bail him out. It was the ninth save for Aceves, who has allowed only two runs in his last 15 1/3 innings.
The Phillies had 15 hits but stranded 11 runners. They were 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
Ortiz was the last player out of the clubhouse after the game, moving slowly after having tumbled over Philadelphia first baseman Hector Luna trying to leg out a single in the third inning. That left him with a sore hip.
But Big Papi hung in until Gonzalez returned to first base for the ninth inning. It was that kind of night for the Sox.
“This is our team. At times we’re flashy but we’re not a flashy team,’’ Lester said. “We have to grind everything out and that’s what we’re figuring out about ourselves. We have to bust our [butt] to the end.
“We’re playing good baseball now and starting to develop an identity. There were a lot of moving parts but we’re figuring out ways to get it done.’’