BOSTON -- When manager Bobby Valentine removed Adrian Gonzalez for pinch-runner Che-Hsuan Lin in the sixth inning Saturday night, the move appeared curious to most observers.
Gonzalez had just singled, putting runners at first and second with two outs. Dustin Pedroia, who led off the inning with a walk and went to second on David Ortizs single, was thrown out on Gonzalezs single to center as Rays center fielder B.J. Upton fired a perfect throw to cut down Pedroia trying to score.
Lin then replaced Gonzalez.
One batter later, Will Middlebrooks single scored Ortiz for the first run of the game.
Although Gonzalez has been struggling lately (the single made him 9 for his last 45, .200, with 14 strikeouts, actually raising his average one point to .269), removing his bat from the lineup in favor of an unproven rookie was perplexing.
After the game, it was to Gonzalez, too.
You've got to talk to Bobby, said Gonzalez. He's the boss.
"I thought it was going to be a one-run game, and I didn't want that one run to happen to be a ball that fell somewhere that he wasn't going to get to, Valentine said.
"He's not happy with it. It's a total roll of the dice. We're playing the whole game wondering exactly what we have there. I'm confident, but I don't want to learn the hard way. And the hard way is always with a loss.
"Like we always say, we don't know if they're going to hit it to him, but we always know that he's going to get up.
"And he said, 'That at-bat in the ninth is going to be a big one.' And I said, 'It's probably going to be in the eighth, and you're right. I hope we don't need it. I hope we need it. I hope we win 1-0.' And as it turned out, it was 2-1 when his bat came out."
It all worked out when Jarrod Saltalamacchia, pinch-hitting for Marlon Byrd with one out and Daniel Nava on second in the ninth, hit the first walk-off home run of his career.