Ceddanne Rafaela saves Red Sox despite first rough start by Brayan Bello

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics
Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

After Josh Winckowski struck out Brent Rooker to begin the bottom of the 11th inning, catcher Shea Langeliers came to the plate with one out and a ghost runner on second base.

Langeliers drilled the second pitch he saw from the reliever and it soared over the infield. Ceddanne Rafaela wasted no time — as soon as the ball rang off the bat, he took off running.

Rafaela charged back toward the center field wall and lifted his glove at the warning track. The young outfielder found the ball in the air, effortlessly pulling it down and throwing it into the infield to hold runner Seth Brown at second base.

Winckowski threw Lawrence Butler three strikes to end the game and the Boston Red Sox prevailed over the Oakland Athletics, 5-4, in extra innings. It feels wrong to consider an extra-innings win against the As "hard-fought," but the Red Sox used all their resources to emerge victorious.

The second time through the starting rotation which shocked the baseball world in the first week of the 2024 season began with Brayan Bello against Oakland. Boston's pitching showed its first sign of humanness. Bello pitched five innings and he posted six strikeouts and just the second walk allowed by the Sox's starters. He let up two two-run homers, one to Langeliers in the second frame and one to JJ Bleday in the third.

Each time the Red Sox took the lead, Oakland crashed back into the picture. Boston jumped on Alex Wood to start the game after an RBI double by Trevor Story scored Rafael Devers. With Triston Casas and Connor Wong on base in the second inning, Jarren Duran singled to score Casas and bring Boston's lead to 2-0. Duran was thrown out at second trying to extend his single into a double, and the Sox's momentum swiftly ended.

The following frame, the Sox scored on another single from Pablo Reyes, and that was all they could muster until the 11th when Reese McGuire scored from third on a double play to take a 5-4 lead.

Ceddanne Rafela's game-saving play carries Red Sox to victory in Oakland

Duran and Story both posted good nights at the plate against the As pitching. Duran got on base four times throughout the night, he was plunked twice and logged two hits and an RBI. Story collected two hits of his own and two RBI.

Winckowski played as big a part in sealing the Sox's win as Rafela's game-saving catch. He's been lights out in his relief appearances and it was no different in Oakland when he entered in the 10th inning. He faced seven batters and besides intentionally walking Bleday, he fired 15 strikes to Oakland's order, although he had some help from the umpire. The As were stricken after Rafaela's play in center field — Butler struck out swinging as Langeliers looked on, aghast that his walk-off was called off.

The Red Sox pulled together a scrappy victory against the Athletics and Alex Cora's managing masterclass used their entire bench to get the deal done.

Rafaela's game-saving catch looked effortless for the young outfielder — Red Sox Nation can already perceive the electricity he brings to the team. If the bullpen continues the pitching clinic they've put together so far, they and Rafaela will be a deadly combination late in games.

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