Different approach, same winning results for Sox

Different approach, same winning results for Sox
October 9, 2013, 2:30 am
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- During the season, they led the majors in runs scored. They led the American League in total bases, slugging percentage and extra-base hits.
      
But on a night when they found themselves locked in a pitcher's duel, desperate for offense of any sort in order to dispatch the pesky Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox dug deep to play some uncharacteristic small ball.
      
Trailing 1-0 in the seventh, they scored two runs in the seventh and another in the ninth.
      
They weren't the result of some power surge. Instead, the three runs came on a wild pitch, an infield hit and a sacrifice fly.
      
Added together, they were enough to propel the Red Sox to a 3-1 victory, a win over the Rays in the Division Series and a trip to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2008.
      
Power? Who needs power?
      
"One of the things we always talked about in putting this team together," said John Farrell, "is having a diverse offense, being able to do a lot of different things and not be one-dimensional, not be predictable. Tonight was a prime example of that."
      
In the seventh, a one-out walk by pinch-hitter Xander Bogaerts, a two-out single from Jacoby Ellsbury, a wild pitch (as Ellsbury was stealing second and advancing to third) and an infield hit by Shane Victorino produced the first two runs.
      
Two innings later, starving for an insurance run, the Red Sox scrapped together again. Once more, it began with a walk to Bogaerts, followed by a walk to Ellsbury, a hit-by-pitch for Victorino and a sacrifice fly from Pedroia.
      
In the final game of the series, the Red Sox didn't muster a single extra-base hit. And it didn't matter.
      
"The two guys in the front of our lineup (Ellsbury and Victorino)," said Pedroia, "and the speed that they have. They can create runs, put pressure on the other team. They've done that all year long. There's a lot of different ways we can score and that's great."
      
In the first two games at Fenway, the Red Sox thumped, using the familiar surroundings -- to say nothing of some mistakes by the Rays -- to score 19 runs. David Ortiz hit two homers in one game, and in the other, the Sox pounded out five doubles.
      
But when the scene shifted to Tropicana Field and the Rays pitching got tougher, the Red Sox adapted. In Game 3, a wild pitch scored one run and two-run single from Ortiz, hit between short and third to beat the shift, scored two more. A fourth run scored on a groundout.
      
In all, the team scored seven runs in these two games and only two came on a hit that left the infield.
      
"I think it just shows that this team can bang and at the same time, these guys play the game right," said Jonny Gomes. "You talk about passed balls and taking the extra base. You talk about leadoff walks and not trying to hit a leadoff homer. It's about passing the torch and picking each other up."
      
Two years ago, the manager of the Red Sox fretted that the players had "stopped caring for one another," and watched, helpless, as the team dive-bombed right out of the post-season.
      
A year ago, the players seemed caught in a crossfire between a dysfunctional and a divided coaching staff. By the second, between injuries and a sell-off trade, the talent wasn't much better than a Triple-A roster.
      
This season, however, has seen a swift rebound from last place to first and won its first playoff series in five years.
      
They're the basketball team that can run you out of a gym one night, and win with a controlled, half-court offense the next night. They're the the football team that can beat you with a strong passing attack, or wear you down with a grinding running game.
      
Whatever it takes.
      
"I was telling myself, 'Hey, put this ball in play, whatever way you can,'" said Victorino of his infield hit, which ultimately scored the deciding run. "Just try to make something happen. I came out on the good end with a broken-bat, infield hit.
      
"That's the kind of thing you look back on and talk about executing and doing the little things and doing whatever it takes to win."
      
Whatever it takes.
      
If it isn't the official team motto, maybe it should be.