A sellout crowd of 37,652 stayed in their seats at Fenway Park on Friday night as the ninth inning approached. There was no sneaking out early to beat the traffic or grab a beer with friends. Everybody knew what had been going on at the old ballpark this week.
The Red Sox scored a run in the 15th inning to beat the Seattle Mariners in a dramatic game on Wednesday night then a miraculous six runs in the ninth inning for a win on Thursday.
A one-run deficit against the Arizona Diamondbacks hardly seemed like an obstacle to a third consecutive walkoff victory.
Stephen Drew led off with a single before rookie Brock Holt struck out after failing to get a bunt down. No matter, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and at least tying the game seemed almost inevitable.
But the magic vanished. Arizona closer Brad Ziegler got Shane Victorino on a popup to left field and Dustin Pedroia on a groundball back to the mound to preserve a 7-6 victory.
“Things started to build a little momentum, a similar feeling that we’ve had the last couple of nights. But unfortunately it didn’t happen,” manager John Farrell said.
Former Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross was 4 for 5 with a home run, two doubles, and three RBIs for Arizona. His solo shot in the seventh inning off Pedro Beato was the difference in the game.
Earlier in the day, Ross criticized Red Sox general manger Ben Cherington, claiming he was misled during contract negotiations after last season. Ross then went out seemingly intent on proving a point.
“Fun game for me,” Ross said. “I can’t deny that.”
Arizona had 16 hits off an erratic Jon Lester and three relievers. With Tampa Bay losing, the Red Sox maintained a one-game lead in the division.
The Sox are 3-2 in a homestand that has two games remaining. Jake Peavy will make his Red Sox debut Saturday against Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin.
Lester walked to the mound feeling good about himself. After a rough stretch that had lasted the better part of two months, the lefthander had allowed five earned runs and struck out 20 over 19⅔ innings in his previous three starts.
The upward trend reversed course as Lester allowed six runs on a season-high 11 hits and was yanked from the game in the fifth inning. He struck out six without a walk but allowed a series of hard-hit balls.
“Ball was just up in the zone. Misfired a lot of balls. It wasn’t a good night,” Lester said after his shortest outing of the season. “Fastball was up. Changeup was up. Curveball felt like it was better than it has been in a while. Tonight [I] was never really able to get to it.”
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona’s All-Star first baseman, lined a two-run homer into the Monster seats in the first inning. Ross then had an RBI single in the third.
“Obviously he came back with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder,” Lester said.
Lester took a 4-3 lead into the fifth inning. But with a chance to make something of his night, he gave up three runs on four hits.
Aaron Hill doubled and scored on a double by Martin Prado. Ross followed with another RBI double. All three hits were line shots.
“It was inconsistent location within the strike zone,” Farrell said.
When Jason Kubel singled to right to drive in a run, Lester was finished after 102 pitches and some in the crowd were booing.
It was the seventh time in 23 starts this season that Lester allowed five or more earned runs.
“This was obviously my fault. I have to do a better job of going deeper in the game and finding a way,” Lester said.
Arizona starter Randall Delgado (4-3) was the winner but wasn’t much better than Lester. He gave up six runs (four earned) on six hits over six innings.
The 23-year-old Delgado has a 3.23 earned run average in 29 appearances against National League teams. In five games against American League teams he has a 6.35 ERA.
Ellsbury had a leadoff triple and David Ortiz a home run to straightaway center in the first inning. It was Ortiz’s 21st home run of the season.
Daniel Nava reached on an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius to start the second inning and that led to two runs for the Sox. Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with a double before Drew and Holt had sacrifice flies to center.
Down, 6-4, after Lester’s poor outing, the Sox tied the game in the sixth. With two outs and Mike Napoli on first base after a single, Drew homered into the Red Sox bullpen.
With his team down by two runs, Farrell had Beato warming up. When Drew tied the game, there was no time to get another pitcher ready.
Beato had pitched well in eight appearances, but almost entirely in low-pressure situations. Not surprisingly, Ross lined his second pitch over the wall in left to give Arizona the lead back.
“We had to get an inning from Beato,” Farrell said.
Junichi Tazawa kept the deficit at one run but the Sox were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position over the last three innings.
Victorino doubled with one out in the seventh inning off J.J. Putz. Lefthander Joe Thatcher, in his first appearance for the Diamondbacks after being obtained from Oakland on Wednesday, got Ortiz to foul out to end the inning.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.