No team in the American League has played more one-run games this season than the Red Sox.
While Mike Carp was on the disabled list, it felt as if they were playing one every other night. Fourteen of the last 24 games the Red Sox played coming into Thursday were one-run games, and all Carp could do was watch.
A foot fracture had him all but chained to his sofa in a walking boot since the start of June. The pain from the pins and needles was almost worse than the injury.
“It was hard sitting on a couch and not being able to do anything,” Carp said. “Some of the nights, I almost had to turn the TV off in those situations because I can’t be there to help. It hurts so bad to see your brothers struggling. You want to be able to contribute and fill that role and that’s my role, that’s my spot, and I pride myself on it.”
Coming in cold to pinch hit in tight situations has been part of Carp’s job description since he came to Boston in February 2013. He’ll admit it’s a high-stress occupation.
“It’s a tough gig to come up there and everyone’s expecting you to get the game-winning hit and you sat on the bench for 3½ hours,” Carp said.
Carp came off the DL on Monday and was thrown into a pressure cooker on Wednesday, pinch hitting for Xander Bogaerts with the team down by a run with two outs in the eighth inning, and even though he grounded out to first to end the inning, having Carp at the plate in that situation felt normal to Red Sox manager John Farrell.
“When we’ve been in those late-inning situations, he’s had a number of opportunities over the last year-plus,” Farrell said.
When the Red Sox again found themselves needing a run in the 10th inning on Thursday against the White Sox, Farrell knew he had a specialist in Carp.
With runners on first and second, Carp pinch hit for David Ross and shot a 2-and-2 changeup from reliever Ronald Belisario into left field to score Daniel Nava and deliver the Sox’ seventh walkoff win of the season, a 4-3 decision.
“Finally getting back to us, here’s two consecutive days where he steps up in key moments, and today he comes through,” Farrell said.
The last time Carp produced a walkoff RBI was April 20 against the Orioles. In 62 career plate appearances as a pinch hitter, Carp now has 11 RBIs.
“It’s just great to come in in a crucial situation, especially a pinch-hit situation, my job,” Carp said. “It’s tough being on the DL with a boot on my foot to watch those situations happen, knowing the team’s scuffling and not having an opportunity to help out or contribute any way I can. So it’s nice to be back and be helpful.”
The Red Sox salvaged a split of the four-game set and were able to take a breath after a frustrating 10-game homestand that forced them to reevaluate their outlook on a season that has been disappointing.
“It’s definitely huge, especially with the way things have been going,” Carp said. “Had to make some moves and it’s unfortunate that those moves had to happen, but then again it turns the page over for something new and something special to happen.”
Jon Lester’s dominance continued with a seven-inning, 12 strikeout performance. He dueled with White Sox starter Jose Quintana, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning.
Even though it seems as if Lester has had tunnel vision the past month (he’s given up just five runs in his last six starts), he was aware of how Quintana was pitching.
“You obviously see it,” Lester said. “It’s hard not to with the Monster out in left field. You’re sitting there staring at it. I knew what was going on and our guys were up there battling the best they could.”
Eventually, Quintana unraveled.
After Stephen Drew and Ross worked walks to start the sixth inning, Jackie Bradley Jr., singled through the right side of the infield to tie the game at 1.
Quintana got Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia to ground out, but David Ortiz worked the count to 3 and 1 and then shot the fifth straight curveball he saw to deep center field for a two-run double that gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead.
Going to the ninth with newly minted All-Star Koji Uehara on the mound, it seemed as if the Red Sox’ come-from-behind win was a lock. But Conor Gillaspie tagged him for a two-run homer that sent the game into extra innings. It was the sixth homer Uehara has allowed this season.
But for the second straight day, the Sox were able to battle back.
“Hopefully, it’ll get us in a little bit of a rhythm, comfort level,” Lester said. “Just a win like today is huge.’’
The Red Sox headed to Houston hoping that the recent shakeup allows for a fresh start going into the second half of the season.
“Hopefully, it gives us some momentum going into the final series before the break,” Farrell said. “Again, I want to reiterate as much as possible that this is a team that’s still highly competitive. We’ve got some things we’re working with, getting guys established, but our goal and our intent is the same every day, and that’s to go out and hopefully finish off a game like we have the last two days.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.