Aggressive Victorino may have cost Red Sox win

Aggressive Victorino may have cost Red Sox win
April 5, 2013, 1:45 am
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(USA Today Sports Images)

NEW YORK -- John Farrell preached aggressiveness from the start of spring training, but in the first inning Thursday night, Shane Victorino may have pushed the concept a little too far.

Victorino was on second and Dustin Pedroia on first with two out and Jonny Gomes at the plate. Andy Pettitte skipped a pitch past catcher Francisco Cervelli, and when Cervelli jogged casually to the backstop to retrieve the pitch and Pettitte failing to cover the plate, Victorino attempted to score from second.

The plan backfired when Cervelli, spying Victorino heading for the plate, dived at the Sox outfielder and slapped a tag on him for the final out of the inning.

"We've got a pretty good matchup at the plate with Gomes (8-for-22 lifetime against Pettitte)," said Farrell. "But Shane's an aggressive baserunner. In this case, it didn't work out."

Gomes had shown a similarly daring style in Monday's opener when he scored all the way from second on ground ball to the right side. But that was an insurance run in the ninth inning with Sox already comfortably ahead.

By contrast, this was the first inning and had Gomes come through with a base hit, the Sox would have had another quick 2-0 lead which might have deflated the Yankees.

Instead, Pettitte escaped the first-inning jam and didn't allow a run until the seventh when Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled home Will Middlebrooks.

Said Victorino: "I didn't see Pettitte covering and when I took off, I was just hoping I was going to beat Cervelli to the plate, and obviously I didn't. But in a situation like that, when a pitcher doesn't cover, I'm going to take advantage of it.

"Unfortunately, I was a little short on this one. But if you're going to play with aggression, I'm going to take advantage of it. I was a step away from being safe. Unfortunately, I was out."

Victorino's decision was motivated by the message that Farrell sent in spring training, when he told the team he want them to play with a relentless style.

"That's the kind of stuff that wins ballgames," said Victorino. "I came up short and I was out, but it was still early in the game, and in a situation like that, that's why the thought process went through my head."

The aggressive approach and high energy had sparked the Red Sox in their first two wins, but it may have cost them a third.

Part of the problem, as Victorino acknowledged, was a moment of indecision when he got to third base.

"The only thing I kind of kick myself for was I kind of hesitated when I got to third," he said. "As I got there, I said to myself, 'Wow, Andy's not covering.' And then I was kind of like was, 'Nah...don't.' There was a little bit of hesitation on my part. I didn't break stride, but if I think if I kept going all the way and never doubted...."

Pettitte never got there, but Cervelli did, sprawling to the plate to block the oncoming Victorino. In the process, Victorino, going in head-first, jammed his right middle and index fingers, but remained in the game.

In retrospect, Victorino liked his aggressive approach, but faulted the execution.

"I made my decision (to go) after I got to (third) base," he said ruefully, "instead of (making) it prior and committing. That's the stuff we've talked about. I lost this one. But I'm sure there's going to be another opportunity and if it presents itself, I'm sure I'm going to take (the chance) again."