The Red Sox have developed a habit of winning games in the bottom of the ninth inning at Fenway Park. But what transpired on Thursday night was the best walkoff win of this magic season.
Down by five runs against the Seattle Mariners, the Red Sox stormed back for an 8-7 victory before a crowd of 35,886. Daniel Nava started the amazing rally with a walk and ended it with a blast to center field that went as a single.
It was the second consecutive walkoff win and 11th of the season for the Sox, who beat Seattle, 5-4, in 15 innings on Wednesday.
At 66-44, the Red Sox are 22 games over .500 for the first time this season and now lead the division by a full game over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox have won five of their last six games.
Seattle brought its closer, Tom Wilhelmsen, in to pitch the ninth inning with a 7-2 lead. Fenway was quiet and many of the seats were empty.
Wilhelmsen walked Nava before Ryan Lavarnway singled. Brock Holt’s double to left field scored a run.
Jacoby Ellsbury then walked to load the bases. That was it for Wilhelmsen. Lefty Oliver Perez came in and was greeted by a two-run single to right field by Shane Victorino.
Dustin Pedroia was next and he singled to left field, driving in Ellsbury.
David Ortiz struck out swinging. Seattle then turned to righthander Yoervis Medina to face righthanded-hitting Jonny Gomes.
Gomes worked the count full after falling behind, 0 and 2, and rifled an RBI single into center field to tie the game.
Stephen Drew, the hero on Wednesday, drew a walk to load the bases for Nava, the batter who started the inning.
Nava drilled the first pitch he saw to center field. It landed at the base of the wall and the Red Sox had a stunning win.
The wild finish made a winner of Steven Wright (2-0), who threw three innings of scoreless relief after Ryan Dempster gave up seven runs in six innings.
Dempster needed to be much better than that against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, who allowed one run on six hits over seven innings with two walks and eight strikeouts. He has not lost a decision since May 25.
Seattle leadoff hitter Brad Miller lined Dempster’s second pitch of the game into the right-field corner for a triple. Dempster struck out Nick Franklin then faced Kyle Seager, and he surprised the Sox by laying down a bunt against their defensive shift.
As the ball rolled untouched down the third base line, Miller scored and Seager had a single. Dempster loaded the bases with two walks but worked out of further trouble by getting Endy Chavez to ground out.
Dempster put two runners on to start the third inning as Seager walked and Kendrys Morales singled. With one out, Justin Smoak popped a ball straight up.
It was a ball the catcher should have handled easily. But rookie third baseman Holt ran in and seemed to call for the ball. As Lavarnway bailed out, the ball fell untouched. There was no error on the play.
Smoak, given new life, singled to right field to give Seattle a 2-0 lead.
Dempster was down, 2-1, as he took the mound in the fifth inning.
Seager led off with a triple to right field, the ball skating by Victorino and rolling along the warning track. Morales singled in a run.
Smoak doubled off the wall in left, driving Morales to third base. With two outs, Dempster walked light-hitting Dustin Ackley.
Henry Blanco arrived at the plate with a .169 batting average and eight RBIs this season. Dempster left a 91-mile-per-hour fastball up and Blanco drove it over the wall for his third career grand slam. That made it 7-1.
Dempster pitched another inning and left after 110 pitches, 71 of them strikes.
Hernandez was effective but hardly dominant in the early innings as the Red Sox made good contact against him.
A solid single to left by Ortiz put runners on first and third in the first inning. But Hernandez struck out former Seattle teammate Mike Carp to end the inning.
Drew led off the second inning with a single and took second when Nava grounded out. But he was stranded there as Lavarnway struck out and Holt grounded back to the mound.
Ellsbury doubled to left field to start the third inning and took third when Victorino flied deep to center. After Pedroia walked, Ortiz delivered a sacrifice fly to left field.
The Sox had a run but the inning also ended as Pedroia was thrown out at second trying to tag up on the throw home.
Hernandez was done after 107 pitches. Victorino homered off reliever Charlie Furbush in the eighth inning, belting a hanging slider off one of the billboards above the seats in left field to pull the Sox within 7-2.