Sox walk off with a series sweep, beating Rays, 3-2

Sox walk off with a series sweep, beating Rays, 3-2
April 15, 2013, 1:15 pm
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BOSTON -- Mike Napoli's double off the left-field wall with one out in the bottom of the ninth scored Dustin Pedroia from first base, absolving Andrew Bailey of a blown save and giving the Red Sox a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Monday and a sweep of their three-game series.

Pedroia had walked with one out against Joel Peralta, the third Tampa Bay pitcher of the day, and rode home on Napoli's shot off the wall.

The hit removed the goat's horns -- sort of -- from Bailey, who failed in his first shot at nailing down a game since being tabbed to replace Joel Hanrahan, if only temporarily, as closer.

Entrusted with a 2-1 lead, Bailey allowed an opposite-field single to left to Desmond Jennings leading off the inning. Jennings then stole second, and the Sox caught a break when Jennings didn't advance to third after catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw caromed away from second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the play. But it didn't matter, as Ben Zobrist dropped a single to left in front of the diving Jackie Bradley Jr., scoring Jennings and making the score 2-2.

Bailey recovered smartly, striking out Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce and retiring Ryan Roberts on an infield pop, setting the stage for Napoli's heroics.

Bailey's blown save spoiled a superlative effort from Ryan Dempster, who allowed only two hits and one run while striking out 10 over seven innings. Dempster -- now the first Sox starter other than Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to get an out in the sixth inning this season -- allowed a solo homer to Longoria in the fourth, and other than that only one Rays runner reached second base against him.

Saltalamacchia had given Dempster and the Sox their 2-1 lead with a home run into the Rays bullpen in the fifth inning. The Sox had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on a leadoff triple by Jacoby Ellsbury and an infield grounder by Shane Victorino.

STAR OF THE GAME: Mike Napoli
Who else? He hadn't done much -- okay, he really hadn't done anything -- offensively prior to the ninth inning, but all that was forgotten when he drilled a 2-and-2 splitter from Joel Peralta high off the wall in left, so high that Dustin Pedroia (helped a little when Tampa Bay left fielder Matt Joyce bobbled the ball ever-so-slightly) was able to race home from first base with the game-winning run.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Dempster
On any other day, Dempster's 101-pitch performance would have been what everyone walked away talking about. He allowed only four baserunners in seven innings, struck out 10 for the first time in over a calendar year, and extended a record streak by Sox starters: They've held opponents to three runs or fewer in all 12 games this year, the longest such stretch to start a season in franchise history. But he's an afterthought because of . . . 

GOAT OF THE DAY: Andrew Bailey
When Joel Hanrahan's balky hamstring -- which, the Sox say/hope, caused his recent string of meltdowns -- prompted manager John Farrell to make a least a temporary change at closer, Bailey no doubt hoped he could put together a body of work that would enable him to lay claim to the job. He's not off to a good start; it took only two batters for him to blow the 2-1 lead he'd been handed by Dempster and eighth-inning setup reliever Koji Uehara.

TURNING POINT: Umpire Angel Hernandez' call at first base in the sixth inning
The Rays had runners on first and second -- the only time all day they had multiple men on base -- with two outs in the sixth when Evan Longoria grounded one up the middle. Stephen Drew was able to dive and reach the ball, but it appeared to the naked eye that Longoria beat the throw . . . and the TV replay confirmed it. Kelly Johnson, running from second base, would have scored the tying run had Longoria been called safe, but Hernandez called him out, keeping the score at 2-1.

STAT OF THE DAY: 5
The number of times a team has won with 0 singles, 2 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run . . . which is what the Red Sox did Monday.