At times last night you may have been tempted to adjust your television screen if you were watching the Red Sox play the New York Mets. The OPS-obsessed, extra base hit-bashing offensive machine you've come to expect was replaced by a squad that relied on spectacular defense, astute base running, and manufactured runs to win its 12th straight game, topping the New York Mets, 4-2.
The Sox scored the go-ahead and tying runs using small ball. In the sixth, David Ortiz, who usually does his damage with his bat, used his legs to tie the game, tagging up and moving to third on a fly ball to center by Mike Lowell and then scoring on a Jason Varitek sacrifice fly. The Sox took the lead in the seventh, when Coco Crisp led off with a bunt single, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Gonzalez and then crossed home plate on a sac fly by Kevin Youkilis.
"We did some big things well, but we did a lot of little things really well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
"We played a very good game against a very good team and that's why we won."
That and Coco Crisp's Superman catch to end the eighth and preserve a 3-2 lead. With Carlos Beltran on first and two outs, David Wright sent a rocket to the left-center field gap, Crisp, who was shading Wright to hit the opposite way, chased down the ball and then took what he called a "leap of faith," going full extension to snag it before it found its way to Fenway's emerald lawn and likely tied the game.
"Under the circumstances, the time of the game, the score, I don't think I've ever seen a better play," said Francona. "That was an incredible play."
Even Crisp didn't think he was going to get there in time. "I got a pretty good jump on it and the only shot that I had was to go straight after it. I didn't think I was going to get there. I took a leap of faith and because I was going full speed I was able to hang in the air just enough to make the catch."
Defense is starting to become a hallmark of the 2006 Red Sox. Boston set a new American League record and tied the major league record -- authored by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1992 -- with its 16th straight errorless game. The Sox haven't made an error since Kevin Youkilis was charged with an 'E-3' against Texas on June 11. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez hasn't made an error in 56 games.
"Regardless of whether we make an error I think we still have good defensive players and that puts us in a position to have more chances to win games like this," said Francona.
Mike Timlin said he's not surprised by how teammates like Crisp have thrown around the leather this season.
"We've got great defense," said Timlin. "The guys we have now they did a great job when they were with other teams and now they're doing a great job with us."
Crisp summed it up best: "It was a good day of fundamental baseball."
-- David Ortiz impressed everyone with his wheels when he scored in the sixth from second by advancing on back-to-back fly balls to center field, but he still managed to reach a milestone with his bat. Ortiz gave the Sox an insurance run by clubbing the 200th home run of his career to open the eighth inning. In case you're wondering 142 of his home runs have come in a Sox uniform.
-- The Sox need to win three more games to tie the franchise record for consecutive wins, which is 15 set by the 1946 American League pennant-winning Sox team from April 25 to May 10 of that season. The only other longer win streak in club history is a stretch of 13 straight wins by the 1948 Red Sox.
-- Jonathan Papelbon worked a 1-2-3 ninth to tie Dick Radatz's Red Sox rookie record for saves, picking up his 24th save in 26 chances. Radatz notched 24 saves in 1962.
-- The Red Sox run of 12 straight wins in interleague play – all against the NL East – equals the longest interleague winning streak in baseball history.
--- The Sox finished this homestand 9-0, their best mark since 1988, when the “Morgan’s Magic” bunch went 11-0 from July 15-24 of 1988.
-- Quote of the night, courtesy of Curt Schilling, in response to a question about the Sox status in the American League with their 12-game win streak: "We're one loss away from people jumping off buildings in Boston, always. I think that's one of the keys since 2004, we take everything in stride."