Daniel Nava sparks Sox with defense, hustle

BOSTON -- Midway through the Indians-Red Sox affair Friday night, news broke that the Sox had signed veteran Scott Podsednik in an effort to fortify their outfield depth.

That was about the time that Daniel Nava was performing another in a long line of impressive acts during the club's 7-5 victory. More nights like the one he had Friday and Nava could have a hand in keeping Podsednik in Pawtucket. That's impossible to predict at this point, but the contributions from Nava cannot be discounted.

Nava was 1-for-3 with a double and two walks at the plate, but that tells only part of the story. He provided a spark on defense and on the bases, the kind of all-around play that a dormant club could really use.

"I'm just trying to help the guys win," he said. "Today we were able to get a win. Just trying to play hard and whatever happens, happens. Definitely do something to help the team."

That he did.

With the Red Sox leading 2-1 in the top of the second inning, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis singled to left with a man on second. That man, Jack Hannahan, came steaming around third base looking every bit like the tying run.

Nava delivered a perfect one-hop throw to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who made an expert block of the plate to nail Hannahan. It was the type of play that can turn things around for a struggling team.

"It was big. That's a big play right there," Saltalamacchia said. "Nava did an unbelievable job of getting the ball right to me. One hop just like you're taught. I was able to block the plate, keep them from scoring. I think that kind of pumped things up a little bit."

"When that ball's hit, we're thinking it's the second run across the plate," said manager Bobby Valentine. "It was a one-hop throw and Salty did a great job of catching it and keeping the hand from getting on the plate. That's a great team play and things we like to build on."

Nava wasn't done. In the third he played a carom off the Green Monster to perfection to keep the lead runner at third base on a double by Shin-Soo Choo. Moments later, he made a running grab of a dangerous pop down the left-field line. It was a tricky play that eats up many capable outfielders in Fenway Park, but Nava handled it well, ending the threat and once again keeping a run (or two) off the board.

Valentine made note of the fact that clutch plays such as that simply haven't been made much of late.

"In the losing streak, that ball drops and it's a continuation of an inning. Instead it's an out," he said. "The offense was key but the defense was pretty good."

The 29-year-old Nava led off the bottom half of that inning with a line shot to left. He bolted from the box with double on his mind, even though Cleveland left fielder Johnny Damon pounced on the ball. With a slide, Nava was safe, and his hustle was rewarded with a generous applause from appreciative fans that have not had a lot to cheer for. Nava was stranded in that frame, but walked and scored in the fifth on a head-first slide at home.

For good measure, he made another strong, one-hop throw to Saltalamacchia after snagging a liner in the seventh. The Indians, who had the bases loaded at the time, chose not to send the runner from third. Perhaps a lesson was learned.

And perhaps Nava, who has reached base in six of his nine plate appearances since joining the Sox on Thursday, will get a chance to let a few others know that he has the skills to contribute.