Defensive gems save Red Sox


Defensive gems save Red Sox

PHILADELPHIA -- You wouldn't expect a game that featured 12 runs and 26 hits by the two teams to be decided by defense, but the Red Sox' 7-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday night quite likely was.

Standout plays seemed to take place almost regularly.

Among them:

Two well-turned double plays by the middle infield combination of shortstop Mike Aviles and second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

In the fifth, with runners on first and second and no out, Hunter Pence hit a ball that Aviles handled on a tough hop, feeding to Pedroia to record two key outs.

In the sixth, with Jon Lester trying to get out of a first-and-second one-out jam, Pedroia took the feed from Aviles and hung in on a tough take-out slide by Phils infielder Freddy Galvis, getting the Sox out of the inning.

"That's part of the job,'' shrugged Pedroia. "I know, in that situation, they're coming in hard and you just try to protect yourself the best you can and stay in there and turn the double play.''

Adrian Gonzalez, shifted to right field for the night to give DH David Ortiz a chance to start at first base, made two fine plays in foul territory.

He tracked down a ball near the line by Ty Wigginton for the first out in the second.

"That was anything but a routine play,'' marveled Bobby Valentine. "A high fly off the left-handed bat. It goes down the line and comes back the way it did.''

But his real shining moment came in the third, with a run in and Shane Victorino at second. Gonzalez sped toward to foul line on a sinking foul ball from Pence, went into a pop-up slide as he crossed into foul territory and was able to come up before colliding with the wall, with little territory with which to work.

"It's one of those things you're going on as you're running,'' said Gonzalez. "You're taking a peak at the ball. You've got one chance to peak at the wall and then get back to the ball because you don't want to lose sight of the ball while you're trying to figure out fence. I
knew that once I stepped on dirt, I had to go for the slide.''

"Adrian's a very good athlete,'' said Valentine. "He plays the game. If he had foot speed he'd be a five-tool player. He understands time and space and has very good athletic ability.''

The play of the game was a diving catch on the warning track in right-center by center fielder Ryan Sweeney, who took away extra bases from Carlos Ruiz with two runners on and one out in the seventh .

"I just thought I could catch it right off the bat,'' said Sweeney. "Adrian was playing pretty far away and he told me anything in the gap, I should catch. So, I did. But I had to run a long way for that ball and to dive on the warning track is never fun.

"I felt like I had a shot at it (the whole way). Once you get closer to the ball, then you kind of know a little bit more. I didn't have to catch it down low; I caught it up higher, then kind of laid out after that.''

Asked to rank the play among the defensive plays he made in his career, Sweeney said: "It's probably up there, probably my Top Five.''

"At first, I thought the ball had (too) much carry to it,'' said Gonzalez, who was backing up the play. "Then, I saw Sweeney and he had a great jump. I saw it the whole way and the only way he could have made it was diving the way he did. He made a great play.''

"I thought it saved the game,'' said Valentine. "That's a highlight reel catch, a Top Tenner. I don't think he had anything left. He gave everything he had, used full extension. He dove and made, I think, a game-saving catch.''

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.