Ah, first place. Even if by only a half-game, it just feels right. (Dear Tampa Bay Rays Twitter feed @RaysBaseball: The Fenway Park scoreboard is correct. You are in second place. Yours truly, Red Sox Nation).
After a 15-inning, five-hour affair, Stephen Drew had had enough. Drew knocked in Dustin Pedroia for the walk-off win as the Boston Red Sox (65-44) prevailed over the Seattle Mariners (50-57) in one of the longest games of the season. The win not only gave Boston sole possession of first place in the AL East, thanks to a Rays loss, but also gives the Sox a chance at a sweep of the Ms.
Conquering that task won’t be easy. The Mariners’ ace Felix Hernandez is on the mound tonight for the finale at Fenway. Opposing him is Ryan Dempster, who is 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA on the year and 2-0 in his last six starts. Against Seattle earlier this season, Dempster only lasted 3.1 innings, giving up four earned runs on nine hits. A taxed bullpen would like to see Dempster go deep into the game, but he has only pitched more than six innings once in his last five starts.
Here is the line for the Red Sox tonight (first pitch – 7:10 pm EDT):
1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Carp, 1B
6. Drew, SS
7. Nava, LF
8. Lavarnway, C
9. Holt, 3B
Hernandez is 11-4 with a 2.34 ERA, tops in the American League and fourth best in the Majors. He allowed just two earned runs on six hits in seven innings against Boston earlier this season in Seattle and has not lost a start since May 25, going 7-0 with a 2.18 ERA in that span.
Britton, bullpen getting the job done
Many experts thought the Red Sox would go after one more piece to add to their bullpen. Why would they, when guys like Drake Britton are getting the job done just as well? Britton has now pitched eight innings, all in relief, and has yet to give up a run and just five hits with six strikeouts. Britton and Brandon Workman both were in Single-A (both with Salem) just a season ago, but have made quite the impact on the big league club. Koji Uehara continues his dominance, as well. He struck out 21 batters versus one walk in 15.1 innings with five hits and allowed no earned runs (one unearned run) the entire month of July. Uehara had five saves in July – nine total this season – and has struck out 70 batters in 49.1 innings, a 12.77 strikeout-per-nine-inning rate.
Napoli sits against King Felix
Mike Napoli hasn’t had the best career against Hernandez. He is hitting .167 in 36 at-bats, likely a reason why manager John Farrell chose to put Mike Carp, a left-handed hitter, at first base against the right-handed pitcher. Meanwhile, David Ortiz owns a career .310 average and a .429 on-base percentage against Hernandez. The Sox may need Big Papi to continue his success tonight if they want a chance to sweep the Mariners.
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