With the help of some extra inning heroics by Kevin Youkilis, the Boston Red Sox were able to avoid being swept in a three game series at Fenway Park for the first time since Aug. 2006. Youkilis belted his 2nd home run of the game in the bottom of the 13th inning off of St. Louis’ reliever Mike Parisi (0-3) to propel the Red Sox past the Cardinals 5-3 in Sunday’s interleague match up.
The Sox had plenty of extra-inning opportunities but could not capitalize on them until Youkilis delivered the game winning shot with no outs in the 13th frame. In the 10th, 11th and 12th innings, Sox hitters led off with doubles but could not push across the winning run. The homer was Youkilis’ 13th on the season.
“I knew I hit it really well and I thought it would get out but you never know here sometimes,” Youkilis said. “You can’t beat it. I think it was even more exciting when you have a 13-inning game. You just want to get out of here. That always makes it a lot better of a home run.”
Both teams starting pitchers threw well enough to win but neither factored into the decision.
For St. Louis, Joel Pineiro hurled seven innings and allowed seven hits and only two earned runs. Jon Lester’s performance for Boston was just as impressive. He threw seven and a third innings, allowing nine hits and two earned runs while striking out three in his outing. Lester’s has not allowed more then three earned runs in a game during his last 11 appearances.
The Cardinals would open up the scoring in the 6th inning plating two runs on four hits. Youkilis would then smack his first homer on the day in the 7th inning to cut the lead in half making the score 2-1.
Boston would then take the lead by scoring two more in the bottom of the 8th inning to go ahead 3-2. Coco Crisp led off with a triple and was driven in on a Julio Lugo sac-fly to knot the game at 2-2. Dustin Pedroia would connect on a two-out single and then J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez would walk to load the bases. Mike Lowell followed suit and walked to drive in the go ahead run.
“When you get in one of those games—at least when you’re playing at home — you always feel like you have the last at-bat,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “We led three innings off with doubles, start the runner on second (and) couldn’t score. Maybe that’s what it takes is somebody running the ball out of the ballpark.”
Jonathan Papelbon entered the game in the 9th inning trying to record his 22nd save of the season but was unable to close the door. After making quick work of Rick Ankiel and Yadier Molina with strike outs, Papelbon issued a two out walk to Chris Duncan. Pinch hitter Adam Kennedy would then connect on an RBI double to even the score at 3-3.
“Just a hellacious game. It’s one of those things that makes you enjoy this level of competition,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “Both clubs had chances for a lot of heroics to get something going. A lot of heroics to stop them. What a great competition.”
The Cardinals had a great opportunity to take the lead in the 11th inning by loading the bases with three singles off of Sox reliever Hideki Okajima. Francona pulled Okajima to put in Craig Hansen to deal with the jam. He was able to come in and strike out Ryan Ludwick to record the final out of the inning.
Javier Lopez recorded the final two outs in the top of the 13th inning and picked up the victory. Lopez is 2-0 on the season with a 2.45 ERA.
The Sox now welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Fenway Park for the final interleague play series of the summer. Arizona currently sits atop to very weak NL West division with a 39-37 record, 3 ½ games ahead of the LA Dodgers. Since May 18th the D-Backs have struggled with an 11-18 record and have dropped three straight.
Boston will send Josh Beckett to the hill in the series opener. Beckett is 2-0 in the month of June and is coming off a dominant performance of seven shutout innings against the Reds on Jun 15th. He is also 4-0 this season at Fenway Park.
“I just want to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do, go deep into games,” Beckett told the Red Sox’s official Web site.
Dan Haren will take the mound and try to stop the hurting for Arizona. Haren shares the same regular season record as Beckett at 7-4 with a slightly better ERA at 3.26. In his last outing he cruised to a win in Arizona’s 11-1 win over the Oakland Athletics. In that game, Haren tossed seven innings of four hit ball, striking out eight.
Tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm.