If anyone needs to feel good about himself at the plate, it’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Sox catcher, hitting .221, is off to a poor start at the plate, so last night’s game-winning double through the rain at Fenway went far in trying to ease the switch-hitter’s angst. His double off the wall against lefty Daniel Schlereth scored Carl Crawford from first base to provide the only run in a 1-0 Sox win.
“It felt good to come out with a win obviously,” Salty said. “This weather has been crazy, so for us it seemed like the first team to score was going to win the game. Both pitchers pitched great. They had a lot of situations to score and we had Buck to hold them down.”
Salty also caught a shutout in addition to being the offensive hero.n his last three games he’s 4-for-11 with a double, homer and 2 RBI.
“I’ve been hitting the ball hard, but haven’t always got the results. Felt good that it turned my way for once,” he said.
There’s been so much speculation that the Red Sox have been looking around for a catcher. Whether that has motivated Salty to catch and hit better, who knows? The Red Sox would rather stick to him then replace him with someone who would have to get to know the staff. Salty seems to be making progress in that area as well.
“Just feeling more comfortable (the last two weeks),” he said. “The more AB’s you get the better you feel. Always felt like second half of the season I’m better. I don’t know what to credit that to. But like I said, me and Mags (hitting coach Dave Magadan) sat down and started talking and slowed everything down. Just slow it down and put good wood on it.”
Salty knew he hit the ball well and that it would reach the wall. He also knew with Crawford running, he had a good chance to score the run. Crawford put it in his highest gear and sailed home with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
“If it didn’t (get to the wall), I would have walked off right there. I hit that ball well. That’s the way it’s been going. I’ve hit the ball good and it just hasn’t fallen in,” he said.
Salty said of Buchholz: “He was on tonight. He’s been on the last three starts I’ve caught him. Had that sinker working, keeping the ball down. A lot of his pitches were foul balls. They kept fouling them and working the pitch count. He still gave us strong innings and got us what we needed.”
And excited about winning the last two games late.
“You’re gonna win some games like that. The biggest thing is when we have runners in scoring position we have to get them over and we have to get them in. It’s something we’ve had trouble with. We can do it. We have to work on it. It happened tonight.”
Salty then had to manage Jonathan Papelbon., Which wasn’t easy. Victor Martinez led off the ninth with a double, but he stranded a runner at third base with one out.
“Pap has been lights out,” Salty said. “He’s got a lot on that fastball. He worked a lot in spring training on mechanics and staying behind the ball. The ball is just flying out of his hand. He’s controlling where he wants to put it. He’s fun to watch and definitely fun to catch.”
With a runner at third, one out, Salty said “You’ve got to keep the ball from going to the outfield. We have every confidence in the world in our bullpen in that situation. Me and Pap had a plan. We wanted to pitch off the plate. If he’s gonna hit it, he’s gonna get jammed and it’s not gonna get very far. We were definitely going after them and Pap did a great job.”
He said the difference between Papelbon this year and last is, “The ball is coming out of his hand so well. He worked on his mechanics and stayed behind the ball. Getting great backspin. He’s not a movement guy, throws a four-seamer with a split and a slider. When it comes out of his hand, it picks up a second gear. It’s hard enough to hit that (fastball) as it is. It’s a pitch that looks so good at your waist, and he hides the ball real well and then it picks up that second gear with a late finish. He is who is he for a reason.”
Papelbon struck out Alex Avila and Ryan Raburn to end the game and strand pinch-runner Andy Dirks at third.