Nava Caps Amazing Night at Fenway With Walk-Off; Sox Complete Sweep

Daniel Nava connected on the first pitch he saw in the ninth, and drove it deep to center, and like that the Boston Red Sox collected their second straight walk-off victory on a thrilling night at Fenway Park.  If you want to get technical, this was the second walk-off of Thursday as the previous game took 15 frames and well past midnight. Six runs plated in the ninth and Nava was mobbed by teammates before the 8-7 amazement could sink in.

If 2007’s “Mother’s Day Miracle” was a catalyst in the Sox’ romp to the World Series, then Thursday night’s game was equally a defining moment for this group of bearded wonders that nearly every pundit picked to finish right where they did in 2012 – dead last. Even if this team doesn’t end up on top, the Thursday thriller certainly made every critic and skeptic turn their collective heads in witness to this improbable season.  Surely somewhere, Bobby Valentine is weeping and thinking of what could have been.

It was perhaps the most difficult road to a victory this season for the Red Sox, as the Mariners shot out to a 7-1 lead, breaking the game open with a fifth inning grand slam by catcher Henry Blanco. With the masterful Felix Hernandez on the mound, a 7-1 lead is usually a certain path to victory.

For a depleted bullpen coming off a 15 inning affair Wednesday night, Ryan Dempster didn’t do the Red Sox any favors as he stumbled across six innings in allowing all seven Mariner’s runs before departing in favor of recently called up knuckler Steven Wright.  Fortunately for the Sox, Wright proved solid in shutting down the Mariners over the final three innings.  Unfortunately for Wright, his excellent outing would be but a footnote to the frantic ninth inning by the Red Sox bats.

No one appreciated Nava's heroics more than rookie Steven Wright, who collected his 2nd MLB win.

No one appreciated Nava’s heroics more than rookie Steven Wright, who collected his 2nd MLB win.

The Red Sox chased Mariner’s closer Tom Wilhelmsen from the game, a very rare sight for a closer, but certainly warranted as he just didn’t have it.  Though the game was not a save situation, with the M’s leading by a seemingly safe 7-2 margin, Wilhelmsen was called on to get some work in.  Thursday’s hero Daniel Nava would lead off with a four-pitch walk to inject some life into the team.  Ryan Lavarnway singled up the middle, followed by an RBI double by Brock Holt.  After a walk to Jacoby Ellsbury, WIlhelmsen was pulled – and never before has a team looked happier to see a starting pitcher leave a game.

Acting manager Robby Thompson committed a costly gaffe when he went to remove the struggling closer.  With a righty and lefty warming in the pen and Shane Victorino due up, Thompson wanted the righty to face him and Pedroia, but mistakenly went up with his left hand first, signalling to bring in lefty Odalis Perez.  Thompson attempted to correct his error, but home-plate umpire David Rackley overruled him, as the pitcher who was initially called on must appear.  The Sox immediately capitalized as Victorino and Pedroia connected on back-to-back singles to drive home two more runs and cut the deficit to one.  David Ortiz would strike out on three pitches before Thompson appeared yet again, and correctly called for the right-hander Yoervis Medina.

The momentum was more than gone from Seattle, however, and Jonny Gomes put together a lengthy at-bat to extend the ninth.  On a 3-2 pitch, Gomes laced a single back up the middle to bring home the tying runner as Fenway’s Faithful exploded in cheers.  Following another tremendous at-bat by Stephen Drew which resulted in a walk (Medina had been ahead 0-2), the bases were loaded as not a seat was occupied with every fan anticipating the inevitable. Nava obliged the crowd with his first career walk-off hit to seal another amazing night for a surging Red Sox team that will maintain its position atop the AL East.

The Seattle Mariners got another sterling effort out of ace Hernandez, who worked seven innings, allowing a lone sac-fly to David Ortiz.  After needing 107 pitches, his night ended and he would have to sit uncomfortably as his bullpen erupted.  Set-up man Charlie Furbush pitched the eighth and surrendered a seemingly innocuous solo home run to Victorino.

The Sox continue their homestand Friday as the Arizona Diamondbacks come to Fenway to begin a three-game series, as Boston looks to capitalize on Thursday’s outing.  Jon Lester looks to continue his hot streak against D-Backs youngster Randall Delgado.

Inside The Game

-The 11 walkoff wins for the Red Sox are the most for the team since 1978.

-After collecting just eight baserunners against former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, the Sox teed off on the Mariners bullpen, gaining 11 baserunners in just 1 1/3 innings.

-The Red Sox are just three wins shy of 2012’s season total of 69.

 

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports

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