Youth served: Bogaerts sparks walk-off victory
After jump-starting eighth-inning rally, rookie's hit leads to Braves error
BOSTON -- Though he's all of 21 years old, Xander Bogaerts is known for his calm demeanor, which has had a lot to do with his quick rise to the Major Leagues. But with a chance to end Thursday night's game against the Braves, Bogaerts noted that even he got a little hyped up.
"I try to relax, but I think the last [at-bat] I was a bit nervous," said Bogaerts of his at-bat against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. "I even bit my lip and then I told myself, 'You know what? Just calm down. Try to get the run in or hit a deep ball so a guy can advance and [Dustin Pedroia] can do some damage.'"
The game never got to Pedroia. It didn't get past Bogaerts. The rookie hammered a game-ending single in the bottom of the ninth that diving third baseman Chris Johnson snared. Johnson's throw to second for an attempted force was missed by Tommy La Stella and skipped far enough past the bag for Jackie Bradley Jr. to score from third.
Just like that, the final at Fenway was Red Sox 4, Braves 3.
Call it a walk-off hit or a walk-off error. It wound up being both, as the error was charged to La Stella.
The Red Sox weren't worried about official-scorer semantics. They were just thrilled to have their fourth win in a row, which has come on the heels of a 10-game losing streak.
Boston won this one with David Ortiz (right calf) starting the game on the bench, and the trio of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks all on the disabled list.
"I think confidence is going to ebb and flow," said manager John Farrell. "We're in a pretty good place right now, and with David having to rest, you turn to the next guy. This was a big win for us tonight given that [Ryan] Lavarnway went down, David unavailable, [Mike] Carp was only available for limited duty. We're banged up a little bit, but you point back to Jake Peavy's eight innings giving us an opportunity to win this game tonight."
Yes, during the losing streak, Farrell vowed that things would get better when the starting rotation executed with more consistency. Peavy's strong outing was the third straight by the Red Sox, who swept the Braves in a two-game set in Atlanta, and did the same here at Fenway.
"The boys battled hard," Peavy said. "Their guy [Braves lefty Mike Minor] did a really good job, but we stayed in it, caught some breaks early and got some big hits late and caught some breaks there in the ninth."
The Braves certainly helped Boston's cause, making three errors over the final two innings.
It was Bradley who led off the winning rally by drawing a walk against Kimbrel. Brock Holt followed with a walk of his own.
After falling behind 0-2, Bogaerts stung Kimbrel's 98-mph heater for the hit that led to the win. Even if Johnson's throw had been handled by La Stella, Holt would have been safe at second and Pedroia would have been up with the bases loaded and nobody out.
"Oh, man, when I saw he caught it, I'm like, 'Come on.' I think he dropped it and he threw bad. I didn't know what the scoring was, but we won, so it's OK," said Bogaerts.
The most pivotal rally was actually in the eighth, when the Sox scored two to tie it up.
Holt got that one started by ripping a single to left, and he advanced to second when left fielder Justin Upton over-ran the ball. Bogaerts followed by scorching a liner into center for an RBI single, slicing the deficit to a run.
Pedroia then hit a chopper toward the middle in which La Stella couldn't get a clean handle on and everybody was safe.
A.J. Pierzynski smacked the first pitch into center, and Red Sox third-base coach Brian Butterfield had his hands up to stop Bogaerts. But a tough inning defensively continued for Atlanta, as B.J. Upton bobbled the hit and Bogaerts scored easily to tie it.
"The eighth and ninth innings, we didn't get it done and gave them opportunities to create runs by mishandling the baseball," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "You've just got to keep working and running out there and talking through it. We need to get better, because we need to win those one-run games."
Koji Uehara (0.83 ERA) worked around a leadoff single to pitch a scoreless ninth, earning the win.
Peavy went a season-high eight innings while allowing eight hits and three runs. The righty walked one and struck out four, throwing 111 pitches.
"Peavy was great," said catcher David Ross. "I thought Peavy was as good as you're going to get for him. I mean, he threw really well."
The Braves took the lead with one swing from Jason Heyward with two outs in the third, as the slugger ripped a changeup by Peavy over the wall in right to make it 1-0.
With Freddie Freeman on first in the fourth, Peavy balked him to second. Peavy didn't like the call and was visibly upset. It proved to be costly as Evan Gattis came through with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
"Bob Davidson likes calling balks," said Peavy. "I think we've established that at this point in time. I didn't get an explanation. I was too upset. I didn't think I should probably talk to Bob anymore after it was over."
Held down early by Minor, the Red Sox got something going in the fifth when Ross hit a double off the Monster in left-center. With one out, Holt hit a double to left to make it 2-1.
Freeman ripped an RBI double to center in the eighth to give the Braves what looked like an insurance run.
But the Red Sox weren't going to be denied in this one.
"We mounted a comeback that hasn't been too frequent this year against two very good late-inning relievers," said Farrell.