The reaction from the Fenway Park attendees as closer Joel Hanrahan was lifted with no outs in the ninth inning was if they had finally found out the twist ending to a suspense film. It wasn't the obvious, happy ending, but the final result still left all 33,039 with a warm feeling.
John Farrell earned his stripes as the Red Sox's new manager in Saturday's 2-1 win, said outfielder Jonny Gomes, not pointing to any moves specifically, but praising Farrell for his decision making.
In a pitchers' duel that had a National League feeling to it, Farrell pulled all the right strings while crafty Rays' manager Joe Maddon was left manipulating a five-man infield before the Red Sox scored the winning run in the 10th inning.
Even though Hanrahan was coming off a game in which he allowed five earned runs in a save situation and ended up with the loss, yanking a Major League closer after just 12 pitches and two batters (both who walked) in the ninth inning isn't a common result.
"I felt like it was time to make a move right there," Farrell said. "He's pitching in some tight spots, and I know that's the life of a closer, but at that point, it was time to make a move."
Koji Uehara entered and promptly retired the next three straight batters, leaving Hanrahan's runners stranded as the Red Sox rallied in the 10th for a walk-off win.
After Hanrahan departed, conventional baseball wisdom indicated that the Rays should bunt their runners over to second and third, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet away. Maddon, however, instead pinch-hit James Loney for Shelley Duncan. Loney struck out looking.
"Loney was the best shot there," Maddon explained. "Loney has an ability to get a base hit and drive in the run. Again, the guys hitting [after Loney] are not really tearing the ball up right now. … If James had gotten a base hit, it was the right move."
Thus is life as the manager -- if the move works, the manager is praised. If it doesn't, he takes the blame.
It's the thought process behind the move that can often be judged more accurately than the result.
Farrell had a similar situation occur on Thursday. The Orioles had runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game. Farrell brought in Uehara to face Adam Jones, but the O's outfielder doubled to bring home the eventual game-winning run.
The result wasn't there, but Farrell chose perhaps his best relief option in the game's crucial moment. More often than not, that move pays off.
Catcher David Ross said anyone can fill out lineup cards, but making the tough decisions is what Farrell excels at.
"It's what he gets paid for, and he does a good job of it," Ross said. "He's got the numbers and he's got the information from all the scouting and all the video, all the stuff they do. Those guys are here way early getting that information, so I have 100 percent confidence in him in making moves."
Whether it's been pulling his closer in the ninth, riding the hot bat of Daniel Nava, giving Jacoby Ellsbury the green light to steal second before scoring the game-winning run or getting the most out of a platoon-catching situation, Farrell has been pressing the right buttons.
"We have a lot of faith in him," Gomes said, "and when he's making moves like that, it says a lot about the 25 guys he has. It's not like the starting nine is all he's going to work with. We have a deep bench and a deep 'pen. He puts guys in places to succeed and plays the hot hand. All hands on deck."
After a perilous, three-hour, 23-minute pitchers' duel finally ended, Farrell was asked if the intensity brought fun to his job.
"Any time you win 2-1, it's a lot of fun," Farrell said. "Like I said, well-played game. We execute well defensively. The tone is set from the mound.
"I'm not going to say the games are won and lost on certain decisions, but our guys are performing pretty darn consistently. Even when we're scuffling to score some runs against some good pitching against us, we executed at the appropriate time."