From his seat on the bench in the Red Sox dugout, Mike Carp has become adept at deciphering when manager John Farrell will put him into the game.
It requires thinking a bit like a manager, projecting how the game will unfold, and when the opposition will have a righthander on the mound in a critical spot.
Carp, a lefthanded hitter, has hit righthanders well all season and is rarely overmatched by a fastball.
On Saturday, the puzzle was easy to solve. The Cleveland Indians had a one-run lead on the Red Sox in the eighth inning and were trying to get the ball to their closer, Chris Perez, in the ninth.
Manager Terry Francona seemed sure to use righthander Vinny Pestano, his usual set-up man. Carp knew that if at least one of his teammates got on base, he would likely hit for Jonny Gomes.
Once Pedro Ciriaco doubled with one out, Carp grabbed a bat. He lined a two-out double off the wall in left field to tie the game.
He then scored the go-ahead run on a double by Dustin Pedroia. By the time the inning was over, the Red Sox had scored four runs and went on to a 7-4 victory.
The Sox, at 30-20, are of to their best start through 50 games since the 2008 team was 31-19.
“These kind of wins are fun,” said Carp, who has become one of the most productive part-time players in the game.
Carp is 15 of 50 (.300) over 25 games with 11 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs. That includes being 3 for 10 as a pinch hitter with three RBIs. Against the Indians, he is 6 for 12 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, and six RBIs.
Daniel Nava, who has been a bench player in his career, understands the challenge.
“It's tough. You're sitting three hours, three-and-a-half hours and all of a sudden it's time to go up there and you've got the game on the line,” he said. “That's not an easy thing to do. [Carp] did a great job of coming up there, being relaxed, and sticking with a good approach on a good pitcher."
See the Globe tomorrow for much more from Carp.
• Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco were 6 for 8 with three runs scored and an RBI at the bottom of the order.
Iglesias is 13 of 27 in eight major league games and the Sox are 7-1 when he starts. He's making a nice case for himself to play more. It'll be interesting to see how long he can keep this up. Six of the 13 hits are infield hits and Iglesias is a wholly unsustainable 13 of 22 (.591) on balls in play. The average is around .300.
• David Ross wore his usual goalie-style catcher’s helmet on Saturday against the Indians. But in his first game back after suffering a concussion on May 11, Ross took extra precautions. Ross wore a Kevlar skullcap under his helmet, a stretchy material fitting around his head like a beanie. The device, designed for pitchers, was an extra layer of protection. The trainers also attached some gel padding inside his helmet in the front.
“The two balls that got me hit my mask right where forehead is and that scared me,” Ross said. "I was willing to do anything to get a little more protection.”
Ross sent one of his masks out to get fitted with an interior layer of Kevlar. Until it comes back, he’ll wear the black skullcap.
• Jon Lester threw 124 pitches, matching the third-most in his career. He allowed a season-high 10 hits but also struck out eight.
• The Indians had been undefeated (21-0) when leading after seven innings. Today marked their first loss by a reliever all season. Vinnie Pestano (1-1) allowed four runs on four hits and two walks.
• The Red Sox have played 50 games and 444.2 innings this season. Dustin Pedroia has started every game and played 441.2 innings. He has reached base safely in 45 of the 50 games and had hits in 39 of them. Today was his 22nd game with two or more hits.