Peavy's three-hitter puts Red Sox alone in first
Righty goes the distance to clinch series against red-hot Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- Coming into the home of the scorching-hot Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Sox never blinked during their weekend visit.
Not only did manager John Farrell's team look like it belonged on the same playing field as Los Angeles, but Boston actually came out on top after pulling out an impressive 8-1 victory in Sunday night's rubber match of a three-game series.
Backed by a complete-game three-hitter from the recently acquired Jake Peavy, the Red Sox controlled this one from the outset.
Beating the Dodgers in a three-game series was no small thing. No team had done it in over two months -- not since the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled it off from June 14-16.
"Personally I'll never say we can't do anything as a team just because of the way these guys have responded to the number of challenges thrown our way, but our starters set the tone for this entire trip and this series in particular," said Farrell.
If the Dodgers (19-5 in August and 29-7 since the All-Star break) have seemed other-worldly of late, the Red Sox continue to find ways to grind out games and series.
"There's not a team hotter," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said of the Dodgers. "We played well. Our pitching's been unbelievable. If we continue to throw like that, we'll be just fine."
Boston has now won 26 series, the most of any team in the Majors. The Sox completed their West Coast swing with a 4-2 mark and head back to Boston leading the Rays by one game in the American League East.
Starting pitching was, without question, the key on this road trip, as Boston's rotation notched a 1.12 ERA.
"It's satisfying anytime you win, however you can get that done," said Peavy. "We were all in to win tonight, knowing that it was a big game to come into Dodger Stadium, win two of three and really have a chance to win Friday night as well. It shows the caliber of ballclub [we are]. We're on the same level as those guys even though they've been on an incredible run. We're a good ballclub as well, and we found a way to win a couple."
The offense supplied Peavy with a steady stream of runs while the defense -- helped by dazzling plays from Pedroia, Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury -- also came up big.
"Well-played game in all phases," said Farrell. "Jake was outstanding tonight with the complete game. I thought we played exceptional outfield defense, particularly in left and center with the number of balls that Vic cut off. Jacoby with a couple of balls where he dove and made some good catches."
Mike Napoli also had a second consecutive solid game at the plate, going 2-for-4 and hitting a mammoth two-run home run into the left-field seats that made it 8-1 in the ninth.
"I'm not a person to just try to hit singles," Napoli said. "I swing to drive the ball. It's just something, I got a good pitch to hit and everything was right. My body was in the right position and I was behind the ball. It definitely feels good to hit a ball like that."
While Peavy enjoyed all the run support, he certainly didn't need it. Once again, he turned in a masterful performance against the Dodgers, a team he's now 14-2 with a 2.25 ERA lifetime against in 25 starts.
Peavy didn't just want to win. He badly wanted to go the distance.
"I wanted to finish it. I wanted to finish it against 2-3-4 [in the lineup]," said Peavy. "It meant something to me to finish it. I wanted to let the guys have a few days off in the bullpen. Koji [Uehara], we used him for over an inning. We've got to keep those guys strong down the stretch. Any of the guys could have finished it out, but I appreciate John giving us the opportunity."
The Red Sox opened the scoring in the first and were the recipients of a fortunate call. After Victorino's one-out double, Pedroia hit a roller to short and Hanley Ramirez appeared to throw him out. But first-base umpire Mark Carlson ruled safe, and Boston had runners at the corners with one out. Napoli clubbed an RBI double to right-center, giving Peavy a quick 1-0 lead.
In the third, Boston appeared caught up in the National League style of play. Ellsbury led off by reaching on an infield single and stole second. Victorino sacrificed Ellsbury to third with a bunt and Pedroia drove him in with a sac fly.
Xander Bogaerts, making his second Major League start, kept the pressure on with a two-out RBI double to right-center in the fourth. Once Skip Schumaker bobbled the ball, third-base coach Brian Butterfield alertly waved Will Middlebrooks home and it was 3-0.
Adrian Gonzalez got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning when he pummeled a solo shot to center against his former Padres teammate Peavy.
"I don't like pitching to Adrian Gonzalez -- no, I don't," said Peavy. "He's an extremely good player. But that can't happen there 0-2. I've got to make a better pitch. I was trying to change his eye level and wanted the ball way higher than it was. That's what they do. They make you pay."
But momentum turned back toward Boston in the sixth as Jarrod Saltalamacchia went to the opposite field for a two-out, two-run homer to left that made it 5-1.
Victorino, again batting right-handed against a righty, belted a solo homer to left in the seventh to make it a five-run cushion, and Napoli's rocket in the ninth put it away.
There's at least a chance the Red Sox and Dodgers could see each other again -- in late October.
"They've got a good team," said Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford. "You're going to have to come out there and hit better. They got good pitching over there. We've got to make the adjustments at the plate and try to be better if we face them again."