The Red Sox held onto their lead despite mediocre outings from Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon Tuesday night, taking advantage of four homers to knock off the Orioles and maintain their tie with the Rays in the wild card race.
The opening salvo was fired by the Orioles against Erik Bedard in the bottom of the first, as a 2-out walk from Nick Markakis and double from Vladimir Guerrero pushed the first run of the game across.
The Sox wasted little time in striking back, and the big hit came from exactly where you would expect it. A 1-1 changeup to Jacoby Ellsbury with Marco Scutaro on base wound up in the right field seats. His 32nd homer of the year gave the Sox a 2-1 lead in the third.
Up next on the list was Ryan Lavarnway. With two men on and a 2-2 count, Lavarnway appeared to go around on a check swing, but was given a second chance by the first base umpire. He did not waste it. The next pitch was a high fastball, and Lavarnway turned on it, launching his first career homer into the stands in left field to give Boston a 5-1 lead.
In what would become an unfortunate trend, however, the lead quickly shrank. A clearly gassed Erik Bedard took the mound for his fourth inning of the game, and simply didn't have it. A ground ball single put Vladimir Guerrero on, and then a high fastball to Matt Wieters spelled disaster; the catcher cut the Orioles' deficit in half with one big swing, sending a long ball into center field to make it 5-3.
From there, though, the Sox returned to piling it on. The top of the sixth saw Carl Crawford triple, and then come in as Marco Scutaro launched his own homer to left field off of a Jason Berken curveball to extend the lead to 7-3. And while Adam Jones' solo shot would cut the lead to 7-4 in the sixth, the Sox again found a big hit from the new guy. Ryan Lavarnway's second hit of the night came on a changeup, but found its way to just about the same place, clearing the wall in left to give the catcher his second homer on the same night as his first.
Meanwhile, Alfredo Aceves had gone about his usual routine, completely saving the Red Sox after a bad start. Despite pitching in his third straight game, Aceves came in and retired batter after batter in efficient fashion, carrying the Sox all the way through the end of the seventh, recording 11 outs on just 36 pitches, allowing just one run in the process.
Unfortunately, the parts of the bullpen that the Sox had relied on so consistently for the first five months of the season again came up empty in September. While it eventually turned out alright, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon made things far too interesting. A pair of singles and a two-out triple would lead to two runs coming in off of Bard, and a leadoff single led to another off of Papelbon. With the tying run at second, however, Papelbon would win a 10-pitch at bat against Adam Jones, getting the center fielder to ground out and keeping the Sox alive to fight another day.
Three For The Road
No Problems For Lavarnway
Starting behind the plate for the first time with the Sox, Ryan Lavarnway didn't exactly show any signs of trouble defensively. Zero passed balls, zero wild pitches, and the one time the Orioles tested him on the basepaths, he gunned down Adam Jones at third. He even made a nice play in the ninth to save what could have been a very weak hit. A good start for a guy that a lot of Sox fans are hoping to see back there more often in the coming years.
Alfredo The Invaluable
Alfredo Aceves is showing exactly why the Sox kept him out of the rotation. Appearing in three straight games, Aceves has been instrumental in both of the Sox' last couple of wins. And tomorrow? "If I wake up, I'm good," he says.
That Damned Soriano
Amazingly, through six innings, it looked like the Sox were actually going to luck out, and gain their wild card lead back. But Rafael Soriano gave Sox fans a reason to hate him after they'd spent the offseason (and much of the regular season) enjoying some schadenfreude over his signing. A three-run homer for Matt Joyce in the seventh inning left the Rays on top of the Yankees 5-3, and for one very short moment, on top of the wild card standings by a half-game.
Red Sox MVP -- Ryan Lavarnway
The top hitting prospect in the system made himself the top hitting player of the night. Two long balls in one game, including what would turn out to be the game winner? Far from wilting under pressure, Lavarnway thrived.
Up Next -- Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. | Jon Lester (15-9, 3.49 ERA) vs. Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85 ERA)
Facing down an absolute must-win, the Sox will be forced to turn to Jon Lester on short rest and in the middle of a bad slump. The good news is that the only pitcher the Sox would like to see more Wednesday is Brandon Morrow. Alfredo Simon isn't particularly good, and there's no reason for the Sox not to take care of business.
Except for the fact that it's September, and these are the Sox. We can only hope that doesn't factor into things.