Good health, discipline leads to Nava's four hits

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Good health, discipline leads to Nava's four hits

BOSTON Daniel Nava returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night, going 4-for-5 to lead the Red Sox in the hit column with two runs scored in the 15-5 win over the Rays at Fenway Park.

Nava tied his career high for hits in a game, which he set on June 1 in Toronto, as he raised his average from .309 to .333.

Nava ho hum, hes well rested, Valentine said, tongue in cheek. Hes a very good player, playing very well. He hit four different types of pitches tonight too. Hes in a nice little groove. Glad hes healthy and back.

Nava had appeared in the previous four games, but had not started since June 9. He was scratched from the next days starting lineup just before game time because of a sore left hand. His hand, obviously, is much better.

The hands feeling really good, he said. Its felt good for a couple days. Weve just been making sure that its progressing in the right direction. You dont want to push it too quick and then send it a couple days backwards. So I think thats the thinking we had in the whole situation.

In 13 games since June 1, Nava is hitting .375, going 16-for-37, with eight runs scored, and multiple hits in five games in that stretch.

Part of his success comes from his ability to see many pitches, being selective and waiting for the one he can handle. In his five at-bats Wednesday, he saw 21 pitches.

Hes a good hitter, said Mike Aviles. You look at what hes done so far. He comes up and hes very patient and I think if the balls not where he wants, he doesnt swing. So when you have an eye like that, it benefits you. I wish I had an eye like that because I cant take that many pitches. But he takes a bunch of pitches because its not the one that he knows he can do something with. So it works out well and hes done a great job for us.

He has started eight games in the lead-off spot this season, batting .344 (11-for-32).

Batting leadoff is not that much different just because my approach is generally the same, he said. Its work the count, get the pitch that I want and then if I get the two strikes, its still put a good swing on a ball. So nothing really changes except that when youre the lead-off guy the first time youre actually a true lead-off batter. So I think thats the only time it changes because I do try and see more pitches.

Nava didnt receive an invitation to major league spring training this year. He started the season with Triple-A Pawtucket, getting called up on May 10 because of injuries to other outfielders. Still, he takes a game like this, with a career-high in hits, in stride.

No more than all the other ones, to be totally honest, he said of what it means to him. I dont set different games in higher esteem or whatever because its baseball and we have a lot of games left. We got a good little, some momentum going and well take the ones when we can get them . . . The lineup we have is good. Just be yourself.

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?