PHILADELPHIA -- Seven weeks into the season, the Boston Red Sox have already started five center fielders, which is what happens when the MVP runner-up, Jacoby Ellsbury, dislocates his shoulder 10 days into the season.
Ryan Sweeney ended up there almost by default, the Sox having already played Cody Ross, Jason Repko and Marlon Byrd in center before Bobby Valentine gave Sweeney, who had spent all his time in right field previously, his first start there eight days ago.
The change of real estate paid off splendidly for the Sox on Saturday night, as Sweeney made a diving catch that ranked with Ellsbury’s finest, overshadowing the four home runs the Sox hit in a 7-5 win over the Phillies.
Sweeney sprinted far to his left, then left his feet to steal extra bases from Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies catcher who had laid into a 59 mph eephus pitch from Vicente Padilla with two on in the seventh and the Sox ahead by three.
Two runs surely would have scored, and the Sox would have been hard-pressed to protect what had once been a 5-1 lead, built on home runs by Mike Aviles; Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia back to back; and David Ortiz.
As it was, the Phillies kept the pressure on the rest of the night, scoring a run in the eighth and leaving the bases loaded when Shane Victorino popped out, and putting two more runners on in the ninth before Alfredo Aceves struck out Hector Luna to end a four-out, nail-biting save.
The Phillies made the most of a startling six infield hits and a two-run home run by Freddy Galvis to push the Sox, but Boston held on to square this series at a game apiece.
Aviles’ home run was his first ever to lead off a game and sixth of the season. Middlebrooks and Saltalamacchia went back to back, and Ortiz, playing first base in a National League park, hit his ninth with a man on.
The win went to Jon Lester, who worked a shaky six innings.