BOSTON -- The big bucket of Gatorade was out again on Monday night, ready to douse the latest walk-off hero. This time, it was Blake Swihart, who couldn't have imagined such a joyous scenario the first three months of the season, when he hardly played.But opportunity knocked when Christian Vazquez
BOSTON -- The big bucket of Gatorade was out again on Monday night, ready to douse the latest walk-off hero. This time, it was Blake Swihart, who couldn't have imagined such a joyous scenario the first three months of the season, when he hardly played.
But opportunity knocked when Christian Vazquez broke his right pinky finger during a headfirst slide on July 8, and there was Swihart getting the big knock when it counted most against the Phillies, a laser ground-rule double to right-center that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 win in 13 innings.
Swihart was on the bench for the first nine innings before coming on in the 10th to pinch-hit for Sandy Leon and flying out to left. Three innings later, Swihart would get another opportunity and not let it go to waste.
"I'm getting better at being prepared and coming in whenever I'm asked to come in, and just trying to stay in the game when I'm not even in it," said Swihart. "Going underneath and trying to watch pitches and how they're throwing guys, watching how their pitchers throw and just trying to stay in the game as much as possible."
Earlier in the season, though Swihart was technically available off the bench, there was no spot for him. He was a third catcher behind Vazquez and Leon, and the Red Sox also had plenty of other coverage at the other positions (third base, first base, outfield) he could play.
Things are different now and Swihart is carving out a role.
"He's stuck with it all year long," said David Price. "Not a lot of opportunities early on and his number has been called here recently. He's stepped up, too. It's good to see whenever that happens."
The Red Sox, with an MLB-best 75-33 record and a season-high lead of six games in the American League East, are developing that reputation as the type of team in which anyone can contribute.
That was particularly evident in this one, on a night the vaunted top five in the batting order went a combined 0-for-24.
Not to worry though, as Eduardo Nunez got the winning rally started with a single to center against lefty Austin Davis and stole second. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler went to righty Luis Garcia, who surrendered the game-ending hit to Swihart on a first-pitch, 99.3-mph heater.
"I thought it was a hit at first and then I remembered it was Roman Quinn out there," said Swihart. "He's got some wheels. I was just hoping it would get down, try to ball-talk it. When I saw it land, I saw it was a ground-rule double, just go touch second base and go celebrate with my team."
It was the fourth walk-off hit of the year for the Red Sox, and first of Swihart's career.
In the first eight innings, Price and young Phillies ace Aaron Nola engaged in a compelling duel. The 25-year-old Nola was fearless in his Fenway debut, holding Boston to four hits and a run over eight innings while walking one and striking out six.
Coming off a start that was rained out after just one inning, Price used the rest to his advantage. The lefty pitched eight innings -- his highest total since a complete game on May 17. Price scattered eight hits but allowed just one run, walking one and striking out five.
"I'm executing, making pitches, just throwing the ball better and not giving up home runs and hitting a bunch of guys in the same inning," said Price. "Just commanding the ball better and defense is making good plays."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Price works out of jam: In the top of the eighth, the Phillies had two on and two outs and Red Sox manager Alex Cora had action in the bullpen. But with Asdrubal Cabrera coming up, Cora stuck with the veteran lefty. The decision worked, when Cabrera lined out to right, and Price was out of the jam. Did Cora consider taking Price out?
"No. I know Cabrera has good numbers against him, but that was his game right there, 92, 93 pitches," said Cora. "Pitches on the edge of the zone. Cabrera hit a line drive to right field and it is what it is. I trust him. He's been good the last few [starts]. Obviously he was rested and he's not pitching 'til Sunday, so that was his game right there. That was his last hitter. We were bringing in Heath [Hembree] for [Maikel] Franco, but I felt good about it."
This was the first game the Red Sox have won of 13-plus innings and one or zero runs allowed since Sept. 13, 2015, at St. Petersburg. It is just the third such game of the last 25 seasons. The other one was July 17, 2011, also against the Rays.
• Red Sox pull off a very bizarre double play
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With runners at the corners and one out in the third, the Phillies looked primed to extend their 1-0 lead. On a grounder to third hit by Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins broke for the plate. Nunez threw home and got Hoskins in a rundown. Not only did the Sox get Hoskins, but they also got Odubel Herrera trying to advance from first to third for an unlikely double play that was scored 5-2-6-5.
"That was great to see Nune with the reaction and then Sandy saw what was going on and had the presence of mind to get rid of the ball and Xander [Bogaerts to tag out Herrera]. They were locked in in that play," said Cora. "That was good baseball right there. That never happens, and for them to react to what was going on without panicking, it was good to see."
HE SAID IT
"He's the closest teammate I've ever had to Dustin Pedroia. He brings that intensity, that fire every single day. He's a gamer. He'll make any team better." -- Price, on the acquisition of second baseman Ian Kinsler, his former teammate from the Tigers
• With Pedroia's return uncertain, Sox get Kinsler
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Trying to push the go-ahead run across in the top of the ninth, Quinn tried to steal second after reaching on a two-out single. Originally, he was called safe. But the Red Sox issued a challenge, and the call was overturned as the replay clearly showed Brock Holt slapping the tag down in time.
Lefty Thomas Pomeranz could be fighting for his spot in the rotation when he pitches Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Phillies. Pomeranz was shaky in his return from the disabled list last week, giving up six hits and four runs in 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Orioles. If Pomeranz doesn't rebound soon, Boston could go with lefty swingman Christopher Johnson, who has been solid as a starter when given the chance this season. The Phillies counter with righty Jacob Arrieta (8-6, 3.45 ERA).
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.