Sox rally for win
Daniel Nava’s first step took him back, toward the Green Monster. It took a split second for the Red Sox left fielder to realize that he was moving in the opposite direction from where the ball, hit by the Angels’ Maicer Izturis in the eighth inning last night, was likely to land.
So he reversed course, raced in, dived, and squeezed the ball into the pocket of his glove. Nava had a highlight-reel play, and he also might have saved the game for the Red Sox, who defeated Los Angeles, 7-5, at Fenway Park.
“I did the old Little League thing, first step back,’’ Nava said. “Then, once I saw it, I went back to ‘I’ve got to get moving, I’ve got to get in.’ I was just trying to put a glove on the ball. Based on the situation in the game, you had to at least dive, do something, be cause the game was on the line.’’
Had Izturis’s two-on, two-out bid fallen in, it almost certainly would have tied the score, and might have led to more. Instead, the Sox jogged off the field with a 6-5 lead intact. They added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning, and won their ninth straight game against the Angels.
“That was huge, that was huge,’’ said Adrian Beltre, who made a couple of nice defensive plays himself. “That gave me goosebumps right there.
“Might be the play of the game.’’
If that wasn’t it, perhaps the other play in which Nava was involved was. It came in the seventh inning, as the Sox came from 5-4 down to take that 6-5 lead. After a Victor Martinez infield single, David Ortiz double, and Mike Lowell walk loaded the bases with one out, J.D. Drew pinch hit for Bill Hall.
Reliever Kevin Jepsen threw a wild pitch, with Martinez scoring to tie the game. Jepsen intentionally walked Drew, and then faced pinch hitter Nava. He took two called strikes, then was plunked on the back with a pitch. Ortiz scored and the Sox had the lead.
“I’ll take it,’’ Nava said. “It helped us get a run across, it helped us get the lead. Any time anyone wants to hit me, I’m happy to do it in that situation.’’
Before that, though, it hadn’t looked as if the Sox were going to take this one. John Lackey, who has now won each of his three starts against his former team this season, had allowed a three-run homer to Alberto Callaspo down the right-field line in the fifth. That came after a solo homer by Mike Napoli in the third and an RBI single by Howie Kendrick in the fourth.
But the Sox came back, adding to the single runs they had scored in the first (RBI single by Beltre) and the fourth (mammoth home run over Lansdowne Street by Hall). In the fifth, Martinez led off with a double. One out later, Beltre hit his 10th home run since the All-Star break, to left field.
Lackey did what he’s done all season — work seven innings and allow five runs. It wasn’t what the team would prefer, but last night it was enough to keep pace with the Yankees and Rays.
“He didn’t walk anybody, and he didn’t cave to frustration or anything like that,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
The Sox will need to continue to win just about every game to have a chance at the postseason, and they have been scoreboard-watching.
“We have to, a little bit,’’ Beltre said. “But we have to do our job. We have to come in here and try to win ballgames. I think if we play good games, it should take care of itself. It’s true we look a little bit, but we shouldn’t be worrying about that right now.’’
Right now, they have to worry about attempting to record their third straight series sweep over the Angels. To keep their lead over the Halos last night, they needed a dramatic play from a player known far more for his offense than his defense. It wasn’t quite a grand slam on the first pitch of his career, but it was significant.
“It’s a do-or-die play,’’ Hall said. “That ball gets by him, they could possibly take the lead. It’s one of those plays that you’ve got to make. That’s big league baseball. You’ve got to step up in those situations and make good plays. You’ve got to take chances every now and then.’’
Told that he might have earned himself his first ESPN Web Gem, Nava grinned a bit incredulously.
“Really?’’ he said. “I’ll take it.’’
So will the Sox.