Jackie Bradley Jr. had himself a major league night and the Red Sox won their first game at Fenway Park in 2014, beating the Texas Rangers 5-1 behind the second solid start by John Lackey.
Bradley did it all against the Rangers tonight: driving in two runs and scoring one to go along with three hits, and he made a couple of top-notch web gems in right field to round out his night.
“It’s a start,” Bradley said about the approach that made him successful Monday night. “It’s a work in progress and I’m continuously trying to get better every day…
“Just trying to see some good pitches that I can put some good swings on and handle. Definitely with [Rangers starter Tanner] Sheppers on the mound, he’s got some really good life on his ball so I definitely wanted to be aggressive early with strikes there in the zone.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell was also impressed with JBJ’s efforts with the bat and glove.
“He executed well offensively,” Farrell said. “Obviously the big RBI single in the second at-bat, but two very good defensive plays, the one that he slid in on that ball was in the lights and he was able to take an angle where he got underneath it well enough to pick it up out of the lights and on the ball from Arencibia, he goes back to the track and he makes a good running catch and it’s just good to see him get in the flow of things, get in the mix. It’s been a different first 10 days of the year for him but I think we’ve talked so many times about the importance of right field here, the defense out there and tonight he was very good.”
The Red Sox — who banged out 14 hits on the night — were leading 2-1 entering the bottom of the eighth and picked up an insurance run when Bradley singled on a bunt ground ball to embattled first baseman Prince Fielder that scored A.J. Pierzynski after Fielder threw the ball away for an error.
Daniel Nava made it 4-1 when he smoked a single to right field scoring third baseman Jonathan Herrera. Bradley then came home when Dustin Pedroia grounded to third baseman Adrian Beltre which forced Nava out at second, but Pedroia managed to stay out of the double play and Bradley scored the Red Sox fifth run of the night.
Bradley picked up his second RBI of the game to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth when he singled sharply to left to score Pierzynski who singled to center to start the inning. Pierzynski had his first three-hit game as a member of the Red Sox, ending an 0-for-8 drought.
Xander Bogaerts has a hit in six of the Red Sox first seven games after going 1-for-4 with a run scored Monday night. Pedroia snapped his six game hitting streak, going 0-for-5 in the win.
The Rangers tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning when Beltre scored on a sac fly to center by Mitch Moreland. Grady Sizemore made a terrific catch on the play. The run was unearned as a passed ball by Pierzynski allowed Beltre to advance to third. Herrera air-mailed a throw to second base on a ground ball deep behind the bag in an attempt to get Beltre, but Bradley backed up the play, keeping Beltre at second until he advanced on the Pierzynski passed ball.
The Sox took their first lead at home this season when Bradley drove in Bogaerts on a hard ground ball single up the middle with two outs in the second inning. The Red Sox played a little hit-run-run earlier in the inning, which allowed Bogaerts to advance to go from first to third on base hit by Pierzynski.
Bradley has also made two terrific catches in right field tonight, one a running catch on a ball hit over his head hit by J.P. Arencibia in the third inning, the other was a sliding grab of a line drive off the bat of Donnie Murphy to end the second.
“I saw it from the start and then I kind of went into it,” Bradley said on the sliding catch. “I had to get down to try to get under the lights to be able to pick it back up. If it didn’t go in the light I probably would have caught it standing up, but I had to get down there.”
The over the head grab of Arencibia’s ball was something Bradley said he works on constantly.
“That’s one of those plays where I definitely try to work at during BP,” he said. “On the balls that are hit over my head and I just take my eye off of it and kind of guess where I feel like the ball is going to be and I happened to run a pretty good route and there it was waiting on me.”
Daniel Nava — playing back in left field tonight — made his second error in the outfield in as many nights when he let a line drive single by Alex Rios get past him in the second inning. Rios would end up stranded at second base.
Grady Sizemore ran hard into the padding on the center field wall in effort to grab a triple by Shin-Soo Choo in the third inning. He may feel something tomorrow, but seemed OK as the game went on tonight.
The Rangers challenged a force play in the first inning but the call on the field was upheld as David Ortiz reached first on a force attempt when shortstop Elvis Andrus dropped the ball thrown from second baseman Donnie Murphy.
Lackey looked sharp for the second start in a row, working ahead in the count early and often. He gave up five hits and threw just 71 pitches through six innings while allowing only the one unearned run. Lackey ran into trouble in the seventh inning after a couple of walks and stolen bases had runners on second and third, but he got Arencibia to ground out to Pedroia at second to end the Rangers threat.
Lackey gave up just the one unearned run on the night, throwing 95 pitches over seven innings giving up five hits, five strikeouts and two walks. Lefty Chris Capuano came on for Lackey and pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up one hit. Koji Uehara let a couple of runners on, but closed it out in a non-save situation.
“He was outstanding tonight,” Farrell said of Lackey’s performance. “He made a number of big pitches with men in scoring position no bigger than that final out in that seventh inning. And a couple of times he picked up the defense when there was an added 90-feet given, he picked up his teammates and did a heck of a job once again for the second time this year.”
Lackey said the key to the start was getting ahead of the Rangers batters.
“I want to throw strikes at them,” Lackey said. “I definitely want them to know I’m going to throw strikes, and if you’re going to get me, you better get me quick because I’m coming after you for sure. It can work both ways, if you’re not locating well, you can get hit pretty quick too that way so you just gotta try to continue to locate and hopefully keep pitch counts down and try to get deep in the game.”
For Uehara, it was his fourth scoreless appearance of the season. Dating back to 2013, 36 of Koji’s last 37 outings have been scoreless with 48 strikeouts to just one walk in that span.
Rangers starter Tanner Scheppers would last just five innings, giving up nine hits, two earned runs, three strikeouts, and a walk before giving way to reliever Pedro Figueroa in the sixth.
The Red Sox improve to 3-4 after the victory tonight, snapping the three game losing streak at home.