Grady Sizemore was close to making his comeback with the Cincinnati Reds in January before the Red Sox convinced him otherwise. Along with an incentive-laden major league contract, the Sox offered Sizemore an opportunity to play and a detailed medical approach to keeping him healthy.
“It was everything, really,” Sizemore said. “The group of guys, the organization, the coaching staff, the medical staff. It all played a part. Honestly, I felt like it was the best place for me to not only have success but stay healthy.”
Both teams felt the impact of that decision on Tuesday night. Sizemore’s long single in the bottom of the 12th inning scored David Ortiz from second base and gave the Red Sox a 4-3 victory against the Reds.
Sizemore does not have a demonstrative personality. But he pumped his fists and let out a shout when the ball glanced off the wall. He then leaped into the arms of his teammates as the Red Sox celebrated their second walkoff of the season.
“I was pretty excited. It was a good feeling,” he said. “I try not to get too emotional out there, try to keep it on the same level. But right there I let it out a little bit.”
Sizemore’s last walkoff hit came on Aug. 11, 2006, the first season he was an All-Star with the Cleveland Indians.
“Oh, gosh,” he said. “That’s a long time ago.”
A lot has happened in that time, too. Sizemore was one of the best players in the game before injuries wore him down and led to his leaving the game for two full seasons. At 31, he made the Red Sox out of spring training and started 16 of the first 22 games before falling into a platoon role in left field.
A lengthy slump followed as Sizemore adjusted to sporadic playing time.
“It’s not that bad, honestly,” he said. “Considering everything else I’ve gone through, this is easy. This is fun. You just have to go out there and play and continue to work.”
But Sizemore is 8 of 25 in his last seven games with three extra-base hits and six RBIs. He was 3 for 6 on Tuesday, driving in two runs. The game-winning hit came on a first-pitch fastball from Logan Ondrusek (0-2) after singles by Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
Ortiz was motioning for a pinch runner as he stood on second base. But manager John Farrell, fearful the game would continue on, ignored the slugger.
Farrell had good reason for caution. Before Sizemore’s hit, the Sox were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. After taking a 3-1 lead in the third inning, they went eight innings without scoring.
“I’m glad Grady hit it as far as he did,” Ortiz said. “I made it, right?”
Junichi Tazawa inherited the two-run lead in the eighth inning and gave it away.
Joey Votto walked with one out before Brandon Phillips doubled. Todd Frazier’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly from Ryan Ludwick scored two runs.
Tazawa threw 10 scoreless innings in his first 11 appearances. In the four games since he has allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings and blown two saves.
Koji Uehara came in for the ninth inning and survived a threat thanks to the Gold Glove defense of Shane Victorino in right field.
Zack Cozart reached on an infield single before Billy Hamilton pinch hit and sacrificed the runner over. Tucker Barnhart hit a deep fly ball to right but Victorino chased it down and caught the ball on the warning track.
It wasn’t quite the catch Dwight Evans made against Joe Morgan of the Reds in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. But it was a nice grab.
Cozart went to third but was stranded. Andrew Miller struck out four in two scoreless innings. Craig Breslow, pitching for only the second time in 12 days, threw a scoreless inning for the win. He is 1-0.
The bottom four hitters in the Reds’ lineup — Skip Schumaker, Cozart, Neftali Soto, and Barnhart — were 25 of 134 (.187) with one home run and 11 RBIs.
But Red Sox starter Felix Doubront went only went 5⅓ innings. He allowed one run on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts. That shouldn’t have taken him 97 pitches but it did.
Burke Badenhop went 1⅔ scoreless innings in relief of Doubront.
Reds starter Homer Bailey went six innings, allowing three runs on five hits with five walks and five strikeouts in his first start against the Red Sox since 2008.
Napoli was 1 for 4 with two walks and two RBIs for the Sox. Sizemore had an RBI single in the third inning.
The Sox left the bases loaded in the third inning after scoring two runs. They also missed chances to score in the fifth, ninth, and 11th. It’s part of a season-long trend.
“We continue to get multiple guys on,” Farrell said. “That was the case again tonight. We’d like to think at some point this will turn and we’ll get some of those base hits to score runs and give us some breathing room.”
The Red Sox are 4-3 on a homestand that ends against the Reds on Wednesday night. The 16-17 Sox haven’t been at .500 since April 4.
Farrell was one of those who helped convince Sizemore to come to Boston. That it was Sizemore who wiped away the frustration seemed appropriate.
“To walk things off, I’ve got to believe tonight gives him even further feeling like he’s contributing here rather than being somebody coming back from an injury,” the manger said.