Sweep of Angels what the Sox needed
ANAHEIM, Calif. — A quick glance at the schedule was cause for immediate concern. The Red Sox would play 10 games in 10 days on the West Coast.
Better Sox teams than this one have been undone by such journeys, no matter the quality of the opponents.
“Sometimes you don’t feel like the same team when you go all this way,’’ David Ortiz said. “Everybody always seems tired. It’s just different.’’
But this time, the road proved to be revitalizing, and the flight home last night was a joyous one as a grand slam by Marco Scutaro in the eighth inning gave the Red Sox a 7-3 victory against the Los Angeles Angels yesterday.
After losing two of three in Oakland, the Red Sox won five of seven against the Mariners and Angels, including a rare three-game sweep of Los Angeles.
“I don’t think since I’ve been here we’ve swept them here during the regular season,’’ said Josh Beckett, who went seven innings for the victory.
Among the players on the roster, only Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek were around when it last happened, in 1998. Bret Saberhagen, Pedro Martinez, and Wakefield were the winners then.
The Red Sox couldn’t catch the Yankees in the division that season, but got into the playoffs via the wild card. For this team to do the same, the road trip has to be the start of something. The Red Sox trail the Rays by 5 games for the wild card and the Yankees by 7 games for the division.
“We still have guys to get back healthy, but we have a few of us back now,’’ said Beckett, who came off the disabled list last week. “Hopefully we can be part of the solution now, not part of the problem.’’
Beckett was sharp, allowing three runs on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. But he found himself in an unexpected battle against a crew of relief pitchers.
Los Angeles starter Joel Pineiro strained a rib cage muscle warming up, an injury that will force him to miss 6-8 weeks. The Angels went to their bullpen, and for seven innings Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rich Thompson held the Sox to three runs.
Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall had solo home runs in the second inning and Kevin Youkilis one in the seventh. But the Red Sox otherwise wasted their opportunities as they were hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position over the first seven innings, leaving nine men on base.
“They don’t really have a place to go, but we kept stranding guys,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
That changed swiftly in the eighth inning once Fernando Rodney took the mound for Los Angeles. The hard thrower, who allowed two runs on Monday night, walked Jeremy Hermida and Hall to start the inning. Eric Patterson followed with a bunt between the mound and third base, and beat the double-clutch throw from Alberto Callaspo to load the bases.
Rodney started Scutaro with four fastballs, each over 96 miles per hour. He took the first one for a strike, then fouled off the next three. Rodney then went to his changeup, which in his case comes in at 86.
Scutaro took the first one, then drilled the second just inside the foul pole in left field for his second career grand slam. He was looking for the changeup and got it.
“Definitely, that’s his out pitch,’’ Scutaro said. “I was just trying to see the ball and at least hit a fly ball or something.’’
It was only the sixth home run of the season for Scutaro.
“You get a bunt down and good things happen,’’ Francona said. “There’s no place to put Scoot and he gets one good and all of a sudden the game turns around.’’
The grand slam left the Red Sox a healthy lead and only six outs to get. But with setup man Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon getting the day off, that was no simple task.
Manny Delcarmen put two runners on in the eighth inning before second baseman Hall ranged into shallow center field and made a leaping catch to rob Hideki Matsui of a hit. Scutaro, watching from shortstop, didn’t think Hall had a chance at the ball.
“Manny got the guy to hit a soft liner. I was in good position and I made a good play on it to get us out of the inning,’’ Hall said. “He’s relatively a pull hitter. So if I’m playing normal position for a righthander, I’m probably not getting that ball. But the scouting reports said he was a pull hitter, so I was shading him up [the middle] a little bit. Off the bat, I didn’t think I had a chance, either.’’
Ramon Ramirez had an uneventful ninth to end it.
The Angels, at 52-52, have lost seven of eight and are slipping out of contention. The sweep was their first at home in 79 series dating to 2007. But with 60 games left to play, the Sox remain in position to achieve their goals.
“I think every win from now on is going to be a big one,’’ Scutaro said. “We’re getting some guys back, and hopefully in the next couple of months everybody will be healthy and we get going.’’