It’s likely most Red Sox fans didn’t expect such a tough contest on Monday when Boston faced the Philadelphia at Fenway. The Phillies arrived at Fenway with a 21-40 record, the worst in the majors, and a 9-26 road record. They’d lost all five Interleague games in which they played this season, the only MLB club to do that (only the Dodgers have yet to play in Interleague in 2017). Philly also toted in a 5.02 team ERA, the worst such pitching performance in baseball.
But the Phillies were no pushovers in this first of two games in Boston before two more later this week in the City of Brotherly Love.
Philadelphia jumped all over Rick Porcello for four first-inning runs. The Sox chipped away at that lead but didn’t ever get on top until it really mattered, at the end of the 11th inning. It was the second straight steamy, long night at Fenway with a game that clocked in past the four hour mark. Unlike Sunday’s bout with the Tigers, though, there were likely less complaints thanks to the Sox victory.
Off to a tough start, Porcello did, in fact, calm down to finish 6.0 innings of work, but allowed ten hits and five runs in the process. He walked one and struck out four. Fortunately, he was backed up by five innings of scoreless relief by Joe Kelly, Robby Scott and Craig Kimbrel, each for an inning, and then two gutsy innings of scoreless play from Matt Barnes.
“I can’t say enough about the job that they did.” Porcello said after the game, “and especially Barnsie…huge, gave us a chance to win.” Porcello also recognized the efforts of Mookie Betts who made a tremendous outfield catch. “He cut that ball off in the gap. If he doesn’t do that, they score, and the game is probably over at that point.”
Betts, after a recent cool spell, is torrid again going 4-for-5 on Monday with a career-high three doubles, one off the MLB-record last set for Boston by Brock Holt in 2014.
The bullpen kept the Sox in the game long enough for Dustin Pedroia to drive in the winning run with just the second walk-off of his long and distinguished career.
Daniel Nava, who played in Monday’s game for the Phillies, went 3-for-6 improving to a full season average to .329 in his first season with Philadelphia. It’s a nice bounceback so far for a guy who had a miserable .590 OPS in 45 games with the Angels and nine with the Royals last season. Nava played parts of five seasons with the Sox, 2010-15.
In a coincidence almost too strange to be true, Pedroia’s only previous walk-off hit in his long career came June 19, 2010 against the Dodgers. In that game Pedey’s hit drove in Nava to secure the win.
But what had to be on Nava’s mind Monday night was his first career at-bat, the first pitch in particular, right here at Fenway, seven years ago to the very day. Not just a hit but a home run. Not just a home run, but a grand slam.
And for a final irony, Nava’s slam came against the Phillies, in just their 19th game ever at Fenway Park.
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