What could the Red Sox possibly get manager John Farrell, who seemingly has it all, on his 51st birthday?
The Sox were a season-high 23 games above .500 (68-45). They remained in control of a one-game lead over the Tampa Rays in the American League East. And they ended a successful seven-game homestand with a 4-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday afternoon before 37,611 at Fenway Park, so there didn’t seem much that could measure up as an appropriate gift.
But Dustin Pedroia had one suggestion.
“Just try to keep winning for him,’’ said the Sox second baseman, who went 1 for 3, with an RBI double in a two-run fifth.
“That’s it,’’ Pedroia said. “We don’t want to give him too many gray hairs. We’ve got 11 walkoffs. We should not make it too scary for him.’’
Unlike the final two games of the three-game sweep over the Mariners, which the Sox won with walkoffs, there was no reason to swoon, sweat, or chomp fingernails down to the nub in the finale of this three-game interleague set against the Diamondbacks.
“I think it goes back to the same characteristic the team has shown all year: The game today is the most important one,’’ said Farrell, whose team recorded its major league-high 23d series win this season, capping a 5-2 homestand.
“Just the talk on the bench before the game was to do whatever it took to win the series,’’ Farrell said. “We know with Tampa, the way they continue to perform as well, we’re thinking about winning every day we walk out on the field.’’
Felix Doubront certainly took that mind-set to the mound as he delivered a gem, throwing seven innings and allowing just five hits and no walks while striking out five.
“I was just trying to keep the score at zero and let my teammates score some runs for me, and you saw what happened,’’ said Doubront, who got some support in the fifth when the Sox scored a pair of runs off Arizona starter Brandon McCarthy. With Stephen Drew at third and Brock Holt at first, Jacoby Ellsbury lofted a sacrifice fly to center to make it 1-0. After a Shane Victorino single sent Holt to third, Pedroia’s double drove him in.
Although they left the bases loaded, the Sox pushed two more runs across in the sixth when Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Drew reached on back-to-back singles off Josh Collmenter. Holt’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position, setting the stage for Ellsbury, whose single to right scored Saltalamacchia. Victorino, who twice was hit by pitches, and who banged into the wall down the right-field line trying to track down a fly, then ripped a single to score Drew.
Asked if it was the best gift he could present Farrell, Doubront said, “It’s his birthday? Well, yeah, happy birthday. We won.’’
Doubront’s departure after 95 pitches was hastened when he started to develop right oblique tightness. But when Cody Ross singled to left, putting two men aboard with one out, it prompted a visit from pitching coach Juan Nieves, who implored Doubront to leave nothing to chance on the next two batters.
Doubront responded by striking out designated hitter Wil Nieves with a 91-mile-per-hour fastball up in the zone, and inducing Gerardo Parra to ground to shortstop. “He reached back and whatever he had left in his tank, he used it to execute his pitches to get out of that inning,’’ Nieves said.
“He finished up the inning with some of the best stuff he had on the day,’’ Farrell said. “So, we felt like after the seven innings and the 95 pitches thrown, that was enough.’’
Lefthander Matt Thornton, who entered in the eighth, wasn’t long for the game when he, too, developed tightness in his right oblique and was forced to leave after giving up a leadoff single to Tuffy Gosewisch and getting ahead of the next batter, Didi Gregorius, 1 and 2.
Thornton handed the baton to Drake Britton, who struck out Gregorius with a 92-m.p.h fastball, gave up a single to A.J. Pollock, then retired Aaron Hill on a fly to right and made a leaping stab of Paul Goldschmidt’s comebacker to end the inning.
“In that situation, Drake Britton, once again coming in against the heart of their order — all righthanded — doesn’t back away from the challenge,’’ Farrell said. “He’s poised and [did] an excellent job.”
Koji Uehara nailed it down in the ninth to send the Sox on a 10-game, 11-day trip to Houston, Kansas City, and Toronto in a festive mood.
“Our guys recognize that there’s maybe a greater intensity, a greater level of energy that this crowd is creating,’’ Farrell said. “Whether that coincides with the way we are playing, or some of the late games, late wins we’ve been able to nail down, this was a good homestand.”
Not even a controversial 2-1 loss to the Rays last Monday could put a damper on the homestand. “The game Monday night was a tough one, but we bounced right back,’’ Farrell said. “A well-played series here. Now we’ve got 10 games where we can’t let up, I know that.’’