Sox cap 'magical' night with 11th walk-off

BOSTON -- After the Boston Red Sox mounted their 11th walk-off win of the 2013 season Thursday night at Fenway Park, manager John Farrell had a simple way to describe the team's improbable 8-7 triumph over the Seattle Mariners.

"In a word -- magical," Farrell said.

Trailing 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Red Sox scored six runs on six hits and two walks while sending 10 batters to the plate. Daniel Nava provided the game-winning hit en route to the club's third straight win and second walk-off in less than 24 hours.

On Wednesday, the Red Sox also earned a walk-off win with a dramatic 5-4 victory in 15 innings over the Mariners. Thursday's victory gives Boston a league-leading 11 walk-off wins, which is the most for the franchise since 1978, when it also had 11. The Red Sox are only two shy of the club record of 13, which was set in 1940.

The Red Sox entered the eighth inning of Thursday's game down by six runs, and had a record of 2-35 this season when trailing in the eighth inning. The Sox pushed a run across in the eighth on a solo home run by Shane Victorino before the explosive ninth inning.

"That's what we're all about. We're going to play hard to the end," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who scored the game-winning run. "We had good at-bats and there were a lot of guys who did some special things. It's been fun."

As exciting as Boston's finish was, its start wasn't as thrilling.

The Red Sox were on hiatus offensively against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez. The right-hander worked seven solid innings and allowed only one run on six hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts. When he exited the game after 107 pitches (66 strikes), Seattle had a 7-1 lead.

Once Boston dethroned the King, it had to deal with only the court jesters, and the Red Sox took advantage of the situation.

"It kind of happened like a microwave -- everything pretty instant," said Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes, who provided the game-tying hit in the ninth inning. "It's not ideal having to come back from behind like that. What we wanted to do was knock out their starting pitcher. Felix is one of the best and it took us a long time to get his pitch count up, but he left us some outs and we took advantage of it."

Even with a five-run lead, Seattle brought in its closer Tom Wilhelmsen. But the Red Sox created quality at-bats in the ninth.

Nava led off with a walk. Ryan Lavarnway singled. Brock Holt provided an RBI double. Then Jacoby Ellsbury walked.

This is when the Mariners didn't help themselves, either. With manager Eric Wedge at home recovering from a mild stroke, Seattle bench coach Robby Thompson has been the club's acting manager. When he came out to make a pitching change, the Mariners had left-hander Oliver Perez and right-hander Yoervis Medina warming in the bullpen.

With the switch-hitting Victorino coming to the plate for the Red Sox, Thompson inadvertently signaled for the left-hander before realizing his mistake. He tried to call in the right-hander and Medina came running in from the bullpen, but he was sent back by umpire Gary Darling, forcing the Mariners to bring in Perez.

"Well, when you have two guys up at the same time, you've got to be clear on who you ask for first and Robbie's left arm went up first and he quickly tried to change it," explained Farrell. "But Gary Darling kept the first call in order and that was to ask for the left-hander. That's what I saw on the field."

The Red Sox took advantage of that mistake.

Victorino, batting from the right side, provided a two-run single to right-center field to cut Boston's deficit to 7-5.

"You've just got to keep playing, play 27 outs," Victorino said. "I don't want to use the word 'magical' myself and I'll let [Farrell] use it, but for me, it's just one of those things where you've got to keep on playing. These are all games you can look back on at the end of the season ... if we keep winning games like this we're going to be someplace we want to be."

After Victorino, Pedroia provided an RBI single before David Ortiz struck out. The Mariners finally were able to get Medina in the game to face Gomes, who had entered in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter.

As Gomes explained, he normally doesn't face too many right-handers. So, with the game on the line and a pitcher he had never faced before, Gomes worked the count full and then provided an RBI single to drive in the game-tying run.

After Stephen Drew walked to load the bases, Nava, batting for the second time in the ninth inning, provided the walk-off win with a single blasted deep to center field to score Pedroia for the victory.

"It goes without saying that at-bat was set up a lot by everything that happened before that," Nava said.

When Pedroia crossed the plate, Fenway Park erupted in jubilation as the players emptied the dugout and mobbed Nava in the infield.

"Like we talked [Wednesday] night, the energy that we're somehow able to dig deep and get was once again there tonight," Farrell said.

After a disastrous 2012 season, general manager Ben Cherington wanted to completely rebuild this club. He started by hiring Farrell, the former pitching coach who already had credibility within the Red Sox clubhouse. Then management wanted to build the roster with character players. The Red Sox were able to accomplish that, and these players and this team have all the workings of a championship contender.

Sure, it's only August and there's plenty of baseball to be played in a tight AL East, but it's obvious how well this team works as a complete unit both on and off the field.

"There's a lot of personality on this team," Pedroia said. "Guys care about each other. Guys want to win. We're going to fight to the end."

Now it's only a matter of how long it lasts.

"We don't quit -- ever," Farrell said. "There's no quit in this bunch. They truly believe that there's a chance to do something special, whether it's on a given night or over the course of a given year. That one would be this year."

While the 11 walk-off wins may surprise a lot of people, these Red Sox players believe in what they have working this season.

"I don't think it's shocking, to tell you the truth," Gomes said. "We've done it a whole bunch."


What a first night in Boston for Red Sox newcomer Jake Peavy, who tweeted about it afterward: