The Red Sox are the only team in baseball that has yet to lose four games a row this season. In an age where baseball statistics can grow complicated, that simple little fact may be the most illustrative when it comes to this team.
“It’s consistency. We haven’t gone on any ridiculous runs and won 10 in a row but we’ve consistently played good baseball,” reliever Craig Breslow said. “That’s allowed us to be where we are now.”
Saturday was a good example of that. A day after playing one of their worst games of the season against the Yankees, the Red Sox came back and beat their rivals, 6-1, before a sellout crowd of 37,517 at Fenway Park.
John Lackey had one of the best starts of his comeback season, allowing one run before leaving to an ovation in the seventh inning. The Sox also had 14 hits, six for extra bases.
The fielding was crisp and the relief pitching stellar. With Tampa Bay losing, the Red Sox lead the American League East by two games again.
After losing three straight games and four of five, the Sox were back to being the team that has made this season such a memorable one.
“We knew what we had to do,” said David Ortiz, who had two hits, including his 24th home run. “Every team is going to have a few bad days. But we don’t let it go on.”
Manager John Farrell wasn’t particularly surprised. He thought the biggest issue in Friday night’s sloppy 10-3 loss was the schedule. The Red Sox arrived in Boston from Toronto at close to 3 a.m. after a 10-game, 11-day road trip and were tired.
“At home [with] a full night’s rest is a pretty good recipe for this team,” he said. “I think we were completely confident we’d come out and put together a solid outing. We know what we’re going up against.”
That Lackey (8-10) was sharp against Hiroki Kuroda (11-8) set a tone the rest of the Sox picked up on. The righthander allowed one run on six hits over 6⅔ innings and walked off the field with a four-run lead. He struck out only one but got the Yankees to ground into 14 outs.
Lackey handled five of the ground outs himself.
“We needed a win today especially as a team after the last few games,” he said.
Lackey didn’t allow a run until the fifth inning. By then the Sox already had a 3-0 lead.
Lackey got three ground outs in the sixth inning, the second when Dustin Pedroia robbed Alex Rodriguez of a hit with a diving stop. The crowd broke into cheers then booed loudly as Rodriguez returned to the dugout.
Rodriguez was 0 for 3 with a walk and heard jeers throughout the game.
Lackey said last week he didn’t think it was fair for Rodriguez to be playing in the pennant race despite his right to appeal a 211-game suspension from Major League Baseball for using performance-enhancing drugs.
If shutting down the game’s most unpopular player gave him any satisfaction, Lackey didn’t express it.
“We’re just trying to win a game, he was just as important as any other guy,” he said.
With two outs in the seventh inning, Lackey hit Chris Stewart with a pitch. Breslow replaced him and Lackey walked off knowing his first win since July 12 was secure.
Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara finished off the Yankees from there.
Kuroda, who had a 0.94 ERA in his previous seven starts, allowed five runs (three earned) on 11 hits over 5⅔ innings.
Ortiz led off with a double to right field in the fourth inning and took third when Mike Carp singled. Daniel Nava struck out before Stephen Drew grounded to first base.
First baseman Lyle Overbay threw high to second and the Yankees were not able to get an out as Ortiz scored. Singles by Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbury gave the Sox a 3-0 lead.
“We benefited from an extra out in the fourth inning and then a couple of key two-out base hits. Any time you give any major league team an extra out, you’re asking for trouble,” Farrell said.
The lead grew to 5-1 in the sixth inning. Nava had his second double off the wall in left field. He advanced on a ground out and scored on a single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
With two outs, Ellsbury’s double to right field scored Saltalamacchia.
Ortiz homered to center field off Adam Warren in the seventh inning. He is now nine hits shy of 2,000 in his career.
Only one Red Sox team has gone the entire season without a four-game losing streak. That was in 1903, the franchise’s first World Series champion.
That team had Cy Young. This team has a bunch of guys with beards who like playing.
“This has been a team that comes in every day with a very consistent approach, a positive attitude,” Farrell said. “The same trash talking that happens every day was there this morning. It was business as usual.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.