The Red Sox came back once to tie it at two-all before the fourth inning was over, and two innings later they were engineering yet another comeback from a 5-2 deficit, grinding out at-bats, doing the little things right, and wearing down a clearly demoralized Angels team for a hard-won win number two on this crucial homestand.
Bill Hall redeemed himself for a flub in left field with a homer over everything onto Lansdowne Street in the fourth, and in the fifth Adrian Beltre belted one out to cut the Angels' lead to one. In the sixth, the Sox chipped away, loaded the bases, and scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
The tiebreaking and deciding run that inning also came not from a hit, a homer, a stolen base or a well-placed bunt, but off the ribs of Daniel Nava with the bases still loaded to make it 6-5, Red Sox. In the next frame, Nava would save Daniel Bard's bacon, almost literally by the skin of his teeth, diving onto his right side and scraping his glove along the ground, barely any distance between the web where it landed and the grass where it might've meant defeat.
Thus the razor-thin one-run distance between us and an unpleasant Thursday morning was also preserved, and expanded the next inning with more grinding small ball from the Sox to make the score 7-5. Maybe a bit more nerve-wracking than I would've liked, but all that matters is that letter "W".***
After Nava's circus catch, Jonathan Papelbon took the mound, his performance the only thing between Red Sox Nation and a sigh of relief.
For him, this has been a markedly inconsistent season. But some perspective on that is warranted tonight -- he became the first reliever ever with 30 or more saves in each of his first five seasons. Literally no one has been more consistent than him over the same period of time. Perhaps it's time to slow our roll in general around here, eh?
Tonight, Paps mowed down the Angels in the ninth with upper-90s heat and a wicked splittah,looking every bit the holder of an all-time reliever record. One silent exchange between him and Victor Martinez sticks with me -- Howie Kendrick was at bat, and Papelbon had already pulled the string on him with the split. V-Mart gestured so clearly for the high cheese I knew at home what he was calling for, with a repeated flash of a single finger inside and up, followed by a flutter of his hand under his own chin. Papelbon responded with precision, and Kedrick swung through it, missing the high heater by a whisper. Strike three. And a beauty to behold.