Tonight the Boston Red Sox, after an off day, with the bitter taste of another one-run defeat in their mouths from Sunday, overcame repeated missed opportunities to defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3. It took 12 innings, a famous length for a Red Sox/Reds game at Fenway. The Sox didn’t need Dwight Evans or Carlton Fisk tonight, though, just a guy named Grady and a bullpen that gave them 6.2 innings of two-run relief.
It started out promising enough in the first, with the Sox scoring due to a missed call on a force play at second base, which gave Mike Napoli the chance to drive in Dustin Pedroia with an infield grounder on what should have been the third out. The Reds came right back in the top of the second and should have had more if not for starter Felix Doubront wriggling out of a first and third, nobody out jam to keep the score tied at one. The Red Sox took the lead back in the third on a bases loaded walk to Napoli and a sharp single to right by Sizemore, who has been heating up of late. They missed a chance at more by not scoring after having the bases loaded and one out.
The shaky Doubront managed to survive into the sixth, but walked two batters sandwiched around a lineout, so Burke Badenhop trotted out of the bullpen with two men on and one out. He only had to throw one more pitch to get out of the inning, a tailor made 4-6-3 grounder. The 3-1 lead seemed enough, into the eighth, though the Red Sox were leaving men on at an alarming clip. The usually reliable Junichi Tazawa did not have it tonight. He walked Joey Votto after being up 0-2 in the count. Then he had Brandon Phillips 1-2 and allowed a ringing double to left, sending Votto to third. A single and a sac fly and we were back to an even 3-3.
This certainly had the makings of another disappointing narrow defeat as the Red Sox left the winning run in scoring position in the ninth and 11th innings. After Tazawa exited, Koji Uehara narrowly escaped a jam in the top of the ninth, as the lethal Votto popped out in the infield for only the third time since the start of 2010. In the 12th, the Red Sox took care of business quickly off Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek. Ortiz rifled a single through the shift. Napoli squeezed a hit past a diving Brandon Phillips and Sizemore was set up for his heroics. He was a good man to have up there as he came through with a hit that bounced up against the wall in the left field gap to bring the lumbering Ortiz around to score. Thankfully the mystery as to why Ortiz was not replaced for a pinch runner did not become an issue.
Andrew Miller was electric tonight. His slider was darting sharply and his fastball was live. He threw 25 pitches so that might earn him a day off, but he used them to strike out four batters in his two innings which would have been perfect if not for an error by Middlebrooks on a difficult play.
Grady Sizemore is coming out of his 3-for-37 slump. He had both the team’s hits with runners in scoring position (2-for-13 total, 0-for-9 without him). In May, he stands at .368 (7-for-19), hiking his average up to .242 from a low point of .208.
The bottom four hitters were 1-for-19 tonight. Pedroia chipped in with three hits and a walk and was in the middle of every rally. Badenhop recorded five outs tonight on 11 pitches. Craig Breslow pitched for only the second time since April 24th, earning the win with a scoreless 12th inning.
Wednesday night, the Red Sox take their eighth crack at getting back to the .500 mark to end the home stand as they send Jake Peavy (1-1, 2.87) to the mound against the Reds’ Mike Leake (2-1, 3.53) at 7:05 p.m.