Trailing 5-0 in the top of the fourth inning of their series opener against the Baltimore Orioles, things looked bleak for the BoSox. Starter Doug Fister, who turned in a second straight clunker, was bludgeoned by the Birds and failed to last three innings on Monday night. The Boston bats had been silent against Dylan Bundy, the Red Sox's lone baserunner coming courtesy of a bunt single by Rafael Devers. Then this: Starting off the fourth, Pedroia fouled a ball that bounced off home plate and clunked him square in the face, sending Boston’s veteran leader to his knees and instantly turning Camden Yards library-quiet.
When Pedroia left the game moments later, it seemed like the end for Boston. Not just for the game in question, but potentially for the season. After all, a loss to Baltimore combined with another win by the red-hot Yankees would cut Boston’s AL East lead -- which was 5 1/2 games on Sept. 1 -- down to two games. But that’s not how it went down.
See, what ha-happened was ... Brock Holt, hitting all of .175 on the season, took over Pedroia’s at-bat and stroked a double, then came around to score his team’s first run. In the next inning, with the Sox down 6-1, Holt singled to drive in two, part of a stunning six-run frame in which Boston knocked out Bundy and batted around to take a 7-6 lead.
But wait, there’s more.
Even though Baltimore reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning, the Red Sox tied it in the seventh on a Xander Bogaerts solo homer, then won it in the 11th when rookie Andrew Benintendi grounded a bases-loaded single into right field. Somewhere in there was Jackie Bradley Jr.'s throwing a laser from the warning track in center field to get Pedro Alvarez trying to leg out a double, and let’s not forget catcher Sandy Leon's gunning down pinch-runner Craig Gentry on an attempted steal in the bottom of the 10th. All these things happened in Boston's 10-8 victory, because of course they did.
It’s been that kind of year for Boston. Expected to cruise to a division title after acquiring Chris Sale in the offseason to go along with fellow lefty David Price and reigning Cy Young Rick Porcello, the Sox haven’t had it easy. They’ve been without Pedroia for nearly a third of the season due to multiple injuries. They’ve gotten exactly 11 starts from Price, the $217 million man who has had so much trouble staying healthy that he’s now working out of the bullpen. They’ve suffered from an extreme power outage in the wake of David Ortiz’s retirement. And who could forget the Pablo Sandoval circus? Through it all, they’ve managed to stay afloat atop the AL East.
“Our group has got such grit, such determination. There’s no quit in them,” said skipper John Farrell, whose bullpen allowed no runs on two hits over the final six frames to help the Sox improve to 14-3 in extra innings. That’s the best record in the bigs this year and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the second-most overtime wins in Red Sox history. It’s also a key reason why Farrell’s squad finds itself three games up on New York, despite the fact that their expected record to this point (88-62) is actually five games worse than that of the Yankees (93-57).
Should Boston go on to win the division, there’s a good chance it will look back on Monday’s comeback victory -- the one in which it lost its leader but refused to lose the game -- as a defining moment. Maybe even the defining moment.
“It was definitely a big win,” Benintendi said. “Up three games, 12 games left, being down early and coming back. This is a big one. Kind of a character win.”