Red Sox role players help maintain heights

Red Sox role players help maintain heights
August 5, 2013, 12:30 am
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BOSTON -- After the Red Sox beat the Diamondbacks to capture their third straight series win, John Farrell was asked what has made his team so consistent. The first player he mentioned wasn't Dustin Pedroia or David Ortiz.

It was Mike Carp. Christopher Michael Carp.

"We're able to rotate a number of guys through, whether it's Carp coming off the bench and starting, [or that] we're getting good production out of the platoon at third base," Farrell said. "And I think it goes back to the same characteristic this team has showed all year: The game today is the most important one."

Though Carp, Sunday's starter in left field, is hitting .311 with a .373 on-base percentage and a .589 slugging percentage, he has by no means carried the Red Sox to their 68-45 record. Neither have those platooning third basemen Farrell mentioned, Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder.

But they are all players who function as a microcosm of the greater point to which Farrell was alluding: Role players have been absolutely vital to the Red Sox earning a one-game lead in the American League East through 113 games.

Take Sunday's game as the latest example: It was Felix Doubront and the bottom-third of the Red Sox order -- Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Brock Holt -- who helped lead the charge in a 4-0 win over the Diamondbacks.

Doubront, pegged as a fifth starter before the season, was in control of the game for seven innings. Drew reached base three times and scored twice. Saltalamacchia sparked a sixth-inning rally and scored. Holt turned two double plays, laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance two runners in the two-run sixth, singled, and later scored.

In fact, between Boston's No. 7, 8 and 9 hitters, they were 4-for-8, got on base seven times, and scored all of Boston's runs on Sunday.

It's been a similar story for a majority of the season. One night Jonny Gomes hits a walk-off home run. On another, Daniel Nava comes through with a dramatic bottom-of-the-ninth game-winner. On another, Brandon Workman comes up from Pawtucket to give the Red Sox meaningful innings in a win.

It doesn't have to be Jon Lester, or Pedroia, or Ortiz who carries these Red Sox on a nightly basis. They have had their share of moments, of course. Pedroia and Ortiz have been especially good. But they aren't obligated to play well in order for the Red Sox to have a chance to win.

"It's great. Less pressure," Ortiz said Sunday after going 0-for-4 with an intentional walk. "Me in my case, I don't feel like I have to come here every day and try to -- I mean I come every day to do something, but it's not like I'm all by myself, you know? It's a different guy every night who comes in to do something."

Whether that will be sustainable over the final two months of the regular season remains to be seen. The Red Sox will need all they can get from their lesser-known names in August and September since it appears as though the Tampa Bay Rays have no plans of slowing down. They beat the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, 4-3, and remain just one game behind the Sox and out of first.

The Red Sox know they're in a nightly battle with Joe Maddon's crew.
 
"Just the talk on the bench before the game was to do whatever it took to win the series," Farrell said after Sunday's win. "We know with Tampa the way they continue to perform as well, we're thinking about winning every day that we walk on the field."

It's still early, but that's not just manager speak. Shane Victorino did his best to put a dent in the unforgiving right field wall in foul territory in front of Pesky's Pole when he chased down a foul pop in the third inning Sunday. A few days earlier, Gomes rattled the standings on The Wall while making a ninth-inning catch.

Players like Victorino and Gomes aren't the team's stars. But they provide both a depth of talent and an fearlessness that allows the Red Sox to win in different ways every night of the week.

"There's no one real thing you can put your finger on and say that's what we're going to do today," Victorino said. "We just keep continuing to battle from one through nine. We do that every single day, and that's where I think some of our success has come from."

Whether it's Victorino or Gomes, Ortiz or Pedroia, Doubront or Carp, the Red Sox remain in first place as they take off for a 10-game road trip beginning this week because they've received contributions from all over.