OAKLAND, Calif. — One of these days, the Red Sox just may put all three phases of the game — pitching, defense, and hitting — together. It almost happened in their 7-6, 10-inning win over Oakland Sunday, but the one thing they did accomplish was crank out meaningful and timely hits.
One of these days everyone will do their job.
And that’s what it’s all about: do your job and you’ll win as a team.
On this day the bullpen — Burke Badenhop and Koji Uehara — imploded, but in the end it didn’t matter.
David Ortiz did his job as the team’s top hitter, its most dramatic player. He dusted off four poor at-bats, and ignored the backlash he got from his own fanbase for his verbal beating of scorer Bob Ellis. Fans just wanted him to shut up and play, and Sunday Ortiz did what he has done year after year — he won the game with one swing with his homer in the 10th.
“Hopefully we can get started now,” Ortiz said. “We haven’t been able to produce consistently. We have a good game, a good series, and we go back. Hopefully everything changes at some point.”
As for his dramatics, “I like to go out there and make things happen,” he said. “I’ve had a hard time myself getting some hits. In the long way it’s going to happen. Not going to get crazy about it.”
The starting pitching did its job.
Jon Lester pitched well and he should have won his ninth game, but the bullpen didn’t help him. Yet the offense did.
He got home runs by David Ross and Mike Napoli and a timely two-out, two-run base hit by Jonny Gomes that helped produce a 6-1 lead.
The offense contributed 13 hits and seven runs.
That’s been a week of production lately for the Red Sox. But they proved to themselves that with a reasonable offense, they can hold off the opposition.
This is what manager John Farrell was talking about Saturday when he said the Red Sox were close. They have two of three parts of the game down pretty well. The elusive one has been the hitting. But you don’t have to score 10 runs a game. You can score four or five or even six, pitch well, and you’ll win more often than not.
Lester beat the A’s fifth starter. He capitalized on the mismatch with Tommy Milone. Recently the Red Sox haven’t taken advantage of such matchups because they couldn’t hit a beach ball.
The big guys hadn’t been doing much lately, and that includes Dustin Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli. Pedroia got a hit Sunday, but it was important that Napoli take on the role he should be excelling at, providing righthanded power. He also stole home with two outs in the third on a broken play after Jonathan Herrera was caught off first.
We understand Napoli has had an achy finger after he dislocated it diving into second base on a steal earlier in the season. But Napoli’s missing power has been huge for this offense. The Red Sox have hit only 56 home runs, 25th in all of baseball. Napoli’s shot to right-center Sunday off Milone in the fifth made it a 5-1 game.
Gomes’s two-out hit in the first was also big. That had been missing from his game. Last season, Gomes was clutch. He hit .346 with runners in scoring position, with 39 RBIs and a .991 OPS. This season he had been hitting .267 in such situations with 22 RBIs.
Knocking in two runs in the first inning and getting the Red Sox off on the right foot was huge. Gomes did his job. And that’s what it’s all about.
“Pedey, Ortiz, and Nap — they’re gonna do their thing,” Gomes said. “If we can just get the best quality you can offer and put the chain together and role play . . .
“We’re not rock bottom by any means, but by the standards we hold ourselves to I think we’re fortunate to be 6½ games back. We have a lot more work cut out within here to meet our standards, but we know we’re capable of much more.”
The Red Sox would love to continue to hit home runs after the three on Sunday.
“We have the capability but those come in bunches,” Gomes said. “When we get them with guys on base, that helps and we’ve been getting guys on base.”
Everyone in the Red Sox lineup needs to do their job.
Brock Holt (1 for 5) is doing his job well at the top of the order. Holt doesn’t steal bases, so there’s no comparison to be made with Jacoby Ellsbury, but in lieu of a game-changer, Holt has performed well.
Regarding the defense, Xander Bogaerts (1 for 5) made a throwing error in the second, but he did hit several balls hard Sunday. Bogaerts has had problems throwing from across the diamond at third, though Napoli should have scooped his poor throw on a ball hit by Derek Norris.
If Bogaerts does his job, imagine how much better the Sox offense and defense would be?
Jackie Bradley Jr.? Hello? He singled in the second inning, but that was about it. We’ve lauded his defensive ability, but to play center field in the majors, you have to hit, don’t you?
Bradley is saved by the fact there’s nobody to take his place right now. The Red Sox are trying to be patient with Mookie Betts because they don’t want him to feel he has to “save the day.” He shouldn’t have to do that, or to do the job of two or three people.
The Sox miss Ellsbury a ton because neither Bradley nor Grady Sizemore before him has been a reasonable facsimile. Not even close.
Ross stroked two hits Sunday, the homer and a single. Even though he’s considered the “defensive” catcher, he needs to hit, too. He had some clutch hits last season, and the year before with the Braves he also contributed some big hits.
The Sox need this again from Ross. Being Lester’s personal catcher or calling a good game isn’t enough.
Farrell keeps making a case for why this team is not a lost cause.
They have fewer holes in their pitching staff than just about every team in the division and most teams in the American League. They even have a depth situation ahead where they’re probably going to have to send down Brandon Workman, Rubby de La Rosa, or both to make room for Clay Buchholz and Shane Victorino.
The Sox have to make a call on Felix Doubront — keep him in the rotation or send him to the bullpen. Doubront is out of minor league options, so he can’t be sent down without being exposed to waivers, which he would never clear. He remains one of Boston’s trade chips.
While it wasn’t perfect, Sunday’s win was at least a one-run game in their favor. The Sox had lost 17 of them prior to Sunday and won only 11. It was also a coming together of an offense that has been the biggest disappointment in baseball.
“It’s coming,” Farrell keeps emphasizing.
One of these days.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.