Sox walk off with a victory
Ellsbury delivers with single in 9th
Welcome to the dog days of August.
Or, after the start of last night’s game was delayed 1 hour 35 minutes by heavy rain, should that be the cats-and-dog days of August?
Whatever the case, the Red Sox found themselves engaged in yet another tussle with the Cleveland Indians after dropping the first game of this four-game series Monday night.
Clinging to a one-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East standings, the Sox escaped with a 3-2 win over the Indians last night on Jacoby Ellsbury’s first career walk-off RBI before 38,101 at Fenway Park.
Before he was ejected in the eighth for arguing a checked-swing strikeout, Kevin Youkilis tied it, 2-2, with a leadoff homer in the sixth.
Franklin Morales threw two scoreless innings in relief of Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon (3-0) got the win with a perfect ninth.
It set the stage for Ellsbury to drive in pinch-runner Jarrod Saltalamacchia with the winning run on his single to center off Vinny Pestano.
With one out Jason Varitek hit a one-out single to center and was replaced by Saltalamacchia. Josh Reddick, in the game for Darnell McDonald, followed with a broken-bat flare to right center to put two men aboard.
Ellsbury hit a sharply struck single to center and Saltalamacchia beat the throw from center by sliding head-first into the plate.
“I knew he was going to be aggressive with me on that first pitched ball and I was trying to be aggressive in the zone and trying to [hit] something hard up the middle,’’ said Ellsbury.
Beckett got off to a rocky start, surrendering a one-out solo homer to Jason Kipnis in the first inning.
Kipnis, who hit his second homer of the season off Matt Albers in the ninth inning of Monday night’s win, sent Beckett’s first offering to him (a 95 mile-per-hour fastball) into the Sox bullpen.
Beckett, who owned the best opponent average (.184) in the majors, kept the damage to a minimum, striking out Asdrubal Cabrera and inducing Travis Hafner to pop up to left fielder Carl Crawford.
The Sox answered in the second inning, manufacturing an unearned run.
David Ortiz drew a leadoff walk, and Crawford followed with a ground ball to short that had all the makings of a double play.
Kipnis, however, bobbled the relay from Cabrera, enabling Ortiz to slide safely into second. Mike Aviles, making his first start for the Sox at shortstop, then singled to left to load the bases for Varitek.
The Sox catcher struck out, but the pitch got past catcher Carlos Santana, allowing Ortiz to score.
Huff bore down and fanned Darnell McDonald and Ellsbury, striking out the side.
In the fourth, Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall wrapped a 90-m.p.h. changeup from Beckett around the Pesky Pole in right to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. It was Chisenhall’s third homer of the season.
Beckett responded with a 1-2-3 fifth, striking out Kipnis looking to end the inning. By that juncture, Beckett had thrown 64 pitches, 46 strikes.
The Sox threatened in the bottom of the fifth when, with one out, Cabrera bobbled Ellsbury’s sharp grounder for an error.
Ellsbury advanced to second on Dustin Pedroia’s hard single to right. But Adrian Gonzalez, whose first-inning double extended his hitting streak to 12 games, killed the rally when he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Beckett continued to grind in the sixth. After punching out Cabrera with a 95-m.p.h. fastball to end a nine-pitch at-bat, he allowed Hafner to reach on a broken-bat single to right.
Hafner was forced at second on Santana’s fielder’s choice. Santana stole second but wound up stranded when Beckett got Kosuke Fukudome to ground to second to end the inning.
Through six innings, Beckett fanned seven and had no walks.
Huff, though, did not answer the bell in the sixth, handing it over Rafael Perez after throwing 102 pitches in five innings. He allowed one run (unearned) on three hits and a pair of walks while striking out six.
Youkilis greeted Perez by clobbering his 16th homer into the Green Monster seats to tie it, 2-2.
Perez departed after two-thirds of an inning and handed it to Joe Smith, who got Aviles to ground to third to end the sixth.
Morales came on for Beckett in the seventh and put up zeroes over his next two frames, allowing just one hit (a seventh-inning double to Ezequiel Carrera) while striking out three batters.
Pedroia chased Smith from the game with his leadoff single to right, prompting Cleveland manager Manny Acta to summon Tony Sipp to face Gonzalez with one on and no out in the bottom of the eighth.
Sipp got Gonzalez to fly to right before getting Youkilis to fan on a 3-2 pitch he tried to hold up on. But first base umpire Gerry Davis ruled it a swing, causing Youkilis to howl in protest.
Youkilis turned for the Sox dugout and was within a few feet of reaching the steps when he was ejected by Davis. After Ortiz drew an intentional walk, Crawford stranded two runners with his pop to second.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.