BOSTON Theres certainly an easier way to win, but in the last three games, the Red Sox have saved their best for last.
Thursday against the Tigers at Fenway Park was no different. The Sox squandered a two-run lead in the eighth inning and needed Carl Crawfords third walk-off hit of the season to secure the 4-3 win.
I think Im glad were playing at home, said manager Terry Francona. Certainly, I know how we feel on the road sometimes. You get in games like this, if theres a mistake or something you go home. Thats the luxury of playing at home. And you can use your closer where you cant normally on the road.
With the Sox leading 3-1 going into the eighth, Daniel Bard gave up back-to-back home runs to Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera, tying the game. It was just the second time in his career Bard has allowed two home runs in one game. The last time was Aug. 9, 2009, also back-to-back numbers to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira in Yankee Stadium.
That merely set the stage for what is becoming a common scene at Fenway the Sox fourth walk-off win of the season, third in their last four games, and third straight win in their last at-bat.
In the bottom of the ninth, with Al Albuquerque replacing Tigers starter Justin Verlander, Kevin Youkilis led off with an eight-pitch walk. With Jose Iglesias pinch-running, David Ortiz singled to right field, moving Iglesias to third. Albuquerque intentionally walked J.D. Drew to load the bases for Jed Lowrie, who blooped a shot that landed just in front of left fielder Andy Dirks, the ball taking a slight bounce to Dirks right before he could snare it. Dirks came up firing home to catcher Alex Avila, cutting down Iglesias, who was caught at third, waiting to see if the ball would be caught. The result: a rare bases-loaded 7-2 force out.
With the bases still loaded Darnell McDonald in to run for Ortiz at third base Crawford came to the plate. He took Albuquerques third pitch, a 1-1, 93-mph fastball, driving it over the head of Austin Jackson in center field, scoring McDonald with the winning run.
Im just trying to get a pitch to hit, Crawford said. We had bases loaded, not trying to do too much but just make good contact.
You try to narrow your focus. Thats the main thing. Try not to swing at balls. You know hes trying to get you out with his pitches. So you just try to tell yourself to swing at your pitch and try not to go out of the zone.
Although Crawford continues to struggle at the plate -- he went 2-for-4 on Thursday bringing his average up to .212 -- hes been making the most of his ninth-inning plate appearances. Thursdays game-winning hit was his third this season, all in May.
Yeah, its weird, he said. But Ill take whatever I can get right now. So we won and thats the main thing. So Im happy about that.
You always want to get a hit in those situations. You know its going to win the game. Definitely dont want to go to extra innings. So you just try to tell yourself to focus a little harder and hope for the best.
Crawford also had game-winners on May 1 against Seattle and May 9 against Minnesota. The last Sox batter with three or more walk-off hits in a season was Ortiz, with five in 2006.
Yeah, thats got to be good for his confidence, Francona said. Thats a good time to hit. The infields playing in. the outfields playing in, and he stayed on the ball really well. Thats the one think you dont want to do is roll over or pull off and he stayed on it really well.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen