Herrera's walk-off single hands Red Sox matinee
Lester delivers another stellar performance to make ASG case
BOSTON -- By the standards of being a Major League Baseball player, Jonathan Herrera fills a pretty unglamorous role for the Red Sox. He starts roughly once a week -- and when Herrera is called into a game, it is generally with the task of moving a runner over or playing solid defense.
For a change, Herrera had a chance to soak up the spotlight on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.
Though he shattered his bat at the point of contact, Herrera got enough on the ball to loop it into right-center field for a walk-off single with one out in the ninth that gave the Red Sox a 3-2 win over the Orioles in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader.
Playing in his 417th Major League game, Herrera tasted his first career walk-off hit. Fittingly, it came as a pinch-hitter, as Herrera was summoned to bat for Jackie Bradley Jr. against Orioles lefty T.J. McFarland.
"I mean, it was a great feeling," said Herrera. "I was looking for any pitch in the zone and tried to put the ball in play -- it was good."
Per usual, Herrera was ready once the opportunity was presented to him.
"He's got experience at it," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "And to his credit, he sits for seven, 10 days and when he does get on the field, he finds a way to contribute -- defensively or offensively. Whether it was out in Oakland or other opportunities for him, he's done a very good job in that role."
And the player who set Herrera up to be the walk-off hero plays a similar role.
To open the bottom of the ninth, Jonny Gomes pinch-hit for Stephen Drew and mustered a base hit deep in the shortstop hole. David Ross sacrificed Herrera to second on a bunt.
"Nothing new on my end," said Gomes. "Just anything to get on. He made a great play and I was able to leg it out."
As Herrera's hit dropped in, Gomes made the perfect read, roaring around from second and sliding in safely to end the game.
"That's one of those plays," said Gomes. "If [Adam Jones] makes that catch, I'll be on SportsCenter with [him]. Congratulations. But if he doesn't, that's a win. That's the risk and the reward going to those late innings."
The reason the Red Sox had a chance to win in the late innings was due to another marvelous performance by Jon Lester.
The power lefty fired eight dominant innings, allowing five hits and two unearned runs. He walked none and struck out seven, throwing 118 pitches.
Over Lester's last two starts, he hasn't allowed an earned run over 16 innings.
"I feel good. My fastball command has been pretty good," said Lester. "I feel like I've gotten the consistency back with my cutter -- which has been helpful at times, just getting it in on righties. All in all, I'm moving the ball around pretty well. I'm keeping it down, keeping the ball on the ground. The base hits today were a couple on the ground, a couple that just got over the infielders' heads. I'll take that all day."
Lester (9-7) took a no-decision while lowering his ERA to 2.73. He has put together a good body of work heading into All-Star selections, which are officially announced on Sunday.
"I mean, yeah, obviously when you talk about individual accolades, that's always nice," said Lester. "That's always fun to go do that stuff. But I know how hard it is as far as a pitcher to get selected. We've got a lot of great pitchers in this league. If I don't [get picked], hey, I'll enjoy the three or four days as best I can. If I do, obviously it'd be awesome for me and my family to be a part of."
Koji Uehara, another strong All-Star candidate, fired a scoreless ninth to pick up the win.
There won't be any All-Star Game for Drew this season, but the shortstop showed signs that he could be ready to snap out of his slow start at the plate.
Drew belted his first homer since Game 6 of last year's World Series in the second, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. He also started a double play in dazzling fashion in the eighth, going into a half-dive on a Nelson Cruz grounder up the middle and making a swift flip to Dustin Pedroia.
"Getting more comfortable every day, playing some really good defense," said Drew. "I put a good swing on it, finally, and it worked out for me."
Bradley started a rally later in the inning with a double. Brock Holt followed with an infield single to second base. When first baseman Steve Pearce dropped the throw, Bradley alertly motored around third and scored to make it 2-0.
In the third, it was the Red Sox who played sloppy defense. Delmon Young reached on a throwing error by Pedroia. Caleb Joseph followed with a single. With two outs, it looked like Lester was going to get out of the inning when Pearce hit a grounder to third. But it went off the glove of Xander Bogaerts for an error, and the Orioles scored two runs on the play to tie the game at 2.
By the end of the afternoon, it was Herrera who untied it. Now, he just needs to find a new bat.
"I've got more in the bag," said Herrera. "I'm OK with that."