Ogando jump-starts rally by ending threat
ST. PETERSBURG -- In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Red Sox's eventual 4-3 victory over the Rays on Friday night in extra innings did not look like it would have the opportunity to occur.
After 1 1/3 innings of relief from Junichi Tazawa to keep things knotted up at 3, left-hander Craig Breslow came in to begin the ninth and immediately served up a double to Asdrubal Cabrera, which forced the Red Sox to intentionally walk Jake Elmore and bring up Curt Casali, who was tasked with bunting over the runners.
That task, however, did not pan out, as the Rays' catcher struck out swinging after he couldn't convert on two bunt attempts. Breslow then got Kevin Kiermaier to ground out to second, but the slow roller allowed the runners to advance to second and third.
The Red Sox then elected to hand the ball over to right-hander Alexi Ogando -- despite him throwing 37 pitches over two appearances in the last three days -- to face Joey Butler. Ogando delivered, as he got the Rays' designated hitter to fly out to Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field.
"Particularly with Alexi, you had the availability for limited exposure, based on how much he's thrown the last three days," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "[It's just] guys making big pitches with their backs against the wall."
The momentum of escaping the ninth carried over into the extra frame, as Mookie Betts, who had squandered a go-ahead opportunity in the seventh after he stole second but was thrown out by Kiermaier trying to retreat after attempting to take another bag on a high throw from Casali, led off the 10th with a bloop double down the left-field line.
"I wasn't necessarily trying to make up for anything, I was just going out and trying to help the team and put a run across," said Betts, who at that point was 0-for-4 but then extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. "I was just trying to have a good at-bat and hit the ball hard. I didn't hit the ball hard, but I got it to fall, so that was the main thing."
Three pitches later, Brock Holt, who was feeling some soreness on his right shin after fouling a ball off it in the fifth, played the part of hero, singling to left field to push across the game-winning run.
"I was just thinking, 'Hit something to the right side and get him over to third,' but I was able to put a pretty good swing into one and hit it to left," Holt said. "Mookie got a good read and was able to score."
Since dropping seven in a row from June 9-15, the Red Sox have won six of their last 10, including four of their last five on the road. They have also scored four or more runs in eight consecutive games, their longest streak since going 11 straight from May 31 to June 12, 2011.
"I think things have been coming alive for awhile," Betts said. "Sometimes you don't see it, because we may lose a couple of games, but I think we are right there and can make a run before the [All-Star] break."