That there were still a lot of fans left at Fenway Park in the ninth inning on Thursday night was a testament to the pleasant weather. Surely nobody believed they would see the Red Sox come back and win.
The Sox were down, 7-2, against the Seattle Mariners and had the bottom of their order coming up against closer Tom Wilhelmsen. The web site FanGraphs.com, which tracks the win expectancy of every game, gave the Sox a one percent chance of winning.
The Sox were 2-35 when trailing after eight innings and hadn’t come back from a five-run deficit all season.
The Sox had already won two games against Seattle and were about a lose a game started by Felix Hernandez. There is no shame in that.
By now, you know what happened. The Sox scored six runs in the ninth inning to win, 8-7.
“In a word — magical,” manager John Farrell said.
Daniel Nava, who started the inning with an innocent walk, came up again and won it with a 400-foot single.
It was the second walk-off victory in 22 hours for the Sox, who beat Seattle 5-4 in 15 innings just after midnight earlier in the day.
“We just play until they tell us we can’t,” Dustin Pedroia said.
The Sox are 37-20 at home with 11 of the victories coming in their final at-bat, the most in the majors. The Sox haven’t that many walk-off wins since 1978 and are two shy of the club record of 13 set in 1940.
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 Rays, who were idle. With 52 games left, the Sox have won three fewer games than they did all last season.
A few notes, quotes and observations:
• Jonny Gomes apparently has some sort of magic dust. Oakland was 74-88 in 2011 then went 94-68 last season with 15 walk-off victories.
The Red Sox were 69-93 last season and signed Gomes. Now they’re 66-44 and have 11 walk-off wins.
Gomes is hitting a modest .236. But he is 10 of 24 in the ninth inning with five RBIs and is a .333 hitter with runners in scoring position. He had a huge RBI single in the ninth inning to complete an epic seven-pitch at-bat.
• With one run in, Wilhelmsen walked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases. Acting Seattle manager Robby Thompson came out of the dugout to make a pitching change. Thompson is managing the team in place of Eric Wedge, who is recovering from a mild stroke.
Seattle had righthander Yoervis Medina and lefthander Oliver Perez warming up. Thompson intended to bring in Medina, but raised his left arm first before tapping his right arm.
When umpire David Rackley signaled for the lefthander to come in, Thompson tried to correct his mistake, but umpire crew chief Gary Darling did not allow it.
“If there’s anything there for me, it’s a lesson learned that if you make any motion with either hand, that’s it. I didn’t realize that,” Thompson said.
It was a huge turn of events for the Sox. Perez was surely being prepared to face David Ortiz. Instead he faced switch-hitting Shane Victorino (two-run single) and Dustin Pedroia (RBI single). Perez struck out Ortiz and then Medina came in.
• Stephen Drew, who had the game-winning single on Wednesday, fell behind 0-and-2 and worked a walk to load the bases. That left it up to Nava.
“It goes without saying that at-bat was set up a lot by everything that happened before that,” Nava said. “Steve had a great at-bat, 0-2 and works the count, gets the walk. Changes the whole situation of my at-bat. With one out, obviously [the Seattle defense] is pulled in.”
• The game was eerily reminiscent of an 8-7 victory in Seattle on July 11.
Ryan Dempster didn’t get through the fourth inning of that game and Steven Wright threw 5.2 innings of scoreless relief to help the Sox rally from a 5-1 deficit. The winning run scored on a single by Nava off Wilhelmsen in the 10th inning.
This time Dempster was rocked again and Wright threw three innings of scoreless relief as the Red Sox rallied from a 7-1 deficit. Wright has two career wins, both in long relief against Seattle when the Red Sox rallied from big deficits.
“Deja vu,” Wright said. “That’s crazy.”
• Farrell, who crunches numbers with the best of ’em, has embraced the attitude of his team.
“We don’t quit. Ever,” he said. “There’s no quit in this bunch. They truly believe there’s a chance to do something special, whether it’s on a given night or over the course of a given year. That one would be this year.”
Arizona at Fenway on Friday night. Stick around Extra Bases for more.