ANAHEIM, Calif. — As the game on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Angels moved into its fifth hour, the Red Sox sent Rubby De La Rosa back to the hotel to get some sleep before his start on Sunday afternoon.
De La Rosa didn’t know until he woke up that the Sox lost in 19 innings and used all seven of their relievers. As he dozed, the Sox didn’t get finished playing until close to 1 a.m.
“Such a late game. It was hard on everybody except for me,” De La Rosa said. “I knew I had to be strong.”
De La Rosa pitched the kind of game his manager and teammates will remember, working into the eighth inning as the Sox beat the Angels, 3-1, to take the series.
A three-run homer by Yoenis Cespedes in the eighth inning, his first as a member of the Red Sox, gave De La Rosa (4-4) the win.
De La Rosa came out of the game after Mike Trout homered to lead off the bottom of the inning. But he had more than done his job by that point, throwing 110 pitches.
De La Rosa scattered five hits, walked three, and struck out eight. He stranded seven runners, six in scoring position. He had retired 12 of 13 before Trout homered.
“I said to myself to go as much as I could and keep pitching,” De La Rosa said. “I had to do my part. Every inning, I felt good.”
Edward Mujica got three outs in the eighth inning before Koji Uehara struck out two with a runner on first in the ninth for his 25th save.
De La Rosa has set himself apart from the team’s other pitching prospects with a 3.21 earned run average over 11 starts. His fastball reached 98 miles per hour Sunday and he showed command of three pitches.
“I think, more than anything, he’s pitching with an awful lot of confidence,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s maintaining his stuff deep into games.”
De La Rosa came to the Sox in the house-cleaning trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and was used cautiously in 2013, his first full season following Tommy John elbow surgery. Now his talent has emerged.
“This year is completely different from what we saw last year. It was a rehab year for him,” Farrell said. “This has been one where he’s going out to pitch and compete and show his feel and touch inside a given game.”
De La Rosa has allowed two runs over 13 innings in his last two starts, both coming on the road against contending teams in the Cardinals and Angels.
Count Cespedes as among those impressed with De La Rosa.
“I actually faced him earlier this year and I was able to see him in his last outing in St. Louis,” the left fielder said. “He’s got really good stuff and I think he’s got a bright future.”
De La Rosa was paired with catcher Dan Butler, a stocky 27-year-old rookie making his major league debut. A college backup who went undrafted before latching on with the Sox, Butler had a dozen or so friends and family in the stands watching. He sought them out after the last pitch.
“You can’t put in words how much fun that is,” Butler said.
Butler didn’t pause to consider the moment too much before the game as he was busy working on a game plan with the coaches. Part of that called for De La Rosa to work in an occasional slider instead of relying so heavily on fastballs and changeups.
“He was throwing two different [sliders],” Butler said. “He was throwing a bigger, slower one he could get early swings on and a sharp one later that was a little bit firmer. He was mixing that with his changeup.”
De La Rosa’s consistent fastball command made the secondary pitches better.
“Teach them the fastball and after that keep them off balance with the off-speed,” Butler said.
Less than 12 hours after the marathon game, the teams played seven innings without scoring. The Red Sox changed that in the eighth inning against reliever Joe Smith (4-1).
Brock Holt reached on an error by first baseman Efren Navarro before Dustin Pedroia punched a single into left field. Cespedes, who was obtained from the Oakland Athletics July 31 in the Jon Lester trade, fouled off a sinker before lining a slider over the wall in left field.
It was his 18th homer of the season, the first since July 26. Cespedes is 5 of 10 against Smith in his career.
“I’ve been facing him for a long time, since he was back in Cleveland. Ever since then he’s been starting me off with a sinker and then follows it up with a slider. When I saw the first sinker, I knew he was coming with the slider, or I thought he was. I was able to capitalize on that,” Cespedes said via interpreter Adrian Lorenzo.
The Red Sox had only four hits and struck out 13 times against Angels starter Hector Santiago and three relievers. But the two hits in the eighth were enough for De La Rosa.
“I feel good,” he said. “I did my job.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.