Red Sox defense sets them apart

Red Sox defense sets them apart
October 6, 2013, 12:15 am
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(USA Today Sports Images)

BOSTON -- In two games to date in the American League Division Series, the Red Sox have outscored the Tampa Bay Rays 19-6, had their starters and relievers outpitch Tampa, and run the bases smarter and better.    

The biggest gap between the two teams, however, might be on defense.   

In Game 1, though the Rays weren't charged with any errors, a series of miscues by the Rays opened the door for a five-run fourth inning that sent the Red Sox on their way to a 12-2 rout.    

In Game 2, the Rays made two errors -- a throwing error by Jose Molina and another by Ben Zobrist at second -- to say nothing of further difficulty with The Wall. After Sean Rodriguez botched a carom on Friday, David DeJesus did the same thing Saturday.    

Meanwhile, the Red Sox haven't committed an error in the two games. And late in Game 2, the team turned two sterling double plays, both of which ended innings and bailed Red Sox relievers out of potential trouble.   

In the seventh inning, with runners at first and second, lefty Craig Breslow got Ben Zobrist to hit a groundball to second baseman Dustin Pedroia.    

Pedroia stayed with a wicked hop and started a brilliant 4-6-3 double play that took the Sox out of the inning.    

"Not easy,'' said an appreciative Breslow, "Looking at Pedey's reaction, it looked like the ball took a kind of an unpredictable hop, but those guys are so good up the middle. If you give them a chance, they're going to get one or two outs for you. We can just keep the ball down, sink it, and give ourselves a chance at a double play and it worked out.''    

An inning later, with Delmon Young on first after a one-out single off Junichi Tazawa, the infield struck again, with Pedroia again starting a textbook 4-6-3 double play.    

End of inning, end of trouble for the Sox, who had Koji Uehara steamroll the Rays in the ninth on just 11 pitches.    

"(The defense) has been as solid as it's been all season,' said Breslow. "I feel like, with the guys we have in the outfield, if the ball's in the air and it doesn't leave the yard, we've got a chance to catch it. And if the balls on the ground in the infield, more times than not, guys are going to get to it and make a play. It's not just a lot of range, it's the ability to get outs once they get there.    

"With a guy on first, you know you're always one pitch away from getting out of an inning.''    

That's particularly helpful for a pitcher like Breslow, who doesn't overpower hitters and record a lot of strikeouts.    

"Especially in this park, with a couple of unique features looking,'' explained Breslow, "anytime you can keep the ball on the ground, you've got a chance to get an out or two. We just feel so good about attacking hitters, being aggressive and going right at guys because of how solid the defense has been all season.''    

The Sox were thought to have the edge in power and offense, and with their unflappable closer. But few viewed defense as an area where the Red Sox would hold a big advantage over Tampa.    

"So far, so good,'' concluded Will Middlebrooks. "That goes back to our starting pitching. They're making pitches in big situations. If they're hitting it right to us, they're making it easy for us.''