Long before he stepped into the batter’s box in the eighth inning, Mike Carp was thinking about his at-bat. His job description was made explicitly clear by the Red Sox when they brought him in. Late-game, pinch-hit, high-pressure situations were all his.
“That’s the job that was given to me in the beginning of the spring,” Carp said.
So when Orioles manager Buck Showalter gave righthander Tommy Hunter the sign to intentionally walk Stephen Drew, Carp knew the call was coming.
Sox manager John Farrell didn’t want to send his star rookie Xander Bogaerts to the plate. Not for lack of ability — Bogaerts hit a home run off Hunter in extended spring training two years ago — but because of Hunter’s track record against righties.
“Hunter’s been dominant against righthanded hitting,” Farrell said. “I just felt like that was the spot for Carp.”
Even though Bogaerts wanted to swing it, he understood the situation.
“He gave me a handshake and he said, ‘Go get ’em,’” Carp said. “It’s part of the game. This is the way we work as a team. He wasn’t upset about it. I’m going in there with all the adrenaline going, trying to get a knock.”
Ultimately, Carp delivered on the second pitch he saw, looping a ball to left to plate the go-ahead run in Boston’s 4-3 win.
The soft liner had just enough on it to stretch past the glove of third baseman Manny Machado.
“I knew off the bat, just the trajectory of it, that it was going to have a good chance,” Carp said. “But Machado, as athletic as he is, you never know what kind of play he’s going to come out with. I’m just happy it dropped in there.”
It was Carp’s fourth hit in 16 pinch-hit at-bats this season. It was the fourth time this season the Sox have gotten a go-ahead RBI from a pinch hitter.
“He stays prepared and fortunately we had a little luck on our side on that one,” Farrell said.
Part of Carp obviously wants to be on the field more. In 46 games as a starter, he’s hitting .310 with 6 home runs and 25 RBIs. In 22 games off the bench, he was hitting .286 (6 for 21) with 2 homers and 6 RBIs.
But he understands the role the Sox need him to play.
“They told me when I came in, ‘Hey, we see you as a bench player,’ and that’s the way it’s played out all year,” Carp said. “I’ve gotten stretches where I’ve had opportunities to play more than others. But my goal is to come in like tonight, get the big hit and win ball games. I’m just happy that happened tonight and hopefully I can have a few more of those before the end of the year.”