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08/15/09 2:06 AM ET
Incredible Red Sox rally downs Rangers
Boston extends Wild Card lead despite Buchholz's gaffe
By Daniel Paulling / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Red Sox entered the ninth inning on Friday night down two runs to one of the best closers in the American League and their biggest rival in the Wild Card race.
They finished with one of their most exciting victories of the season.
"You think you've seen everything," manager Terry Francona said. "That was one of the most exciting innings we've been part of. That at-bat Victor [Martinez] had was phenomenal."
Martinez's at-bat came with two outs and runners on second and third. Martinez worked the count to 1-2 against Rangers closer Frank Francisco with two outs. He then fouled off two pitches, drew another ball and fouled off another pitch.
On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Martinez laced a fastball into right field for a game-winning two-run double. It was part of a six-run ninth inning that gave the Red Sox an 8-4 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Martinez is now 15-for-53 (.283) with 10 RBIs in 12 games since joining the Red Sox.
The win extends the Red Sox's lead for the AL Wild Card to 1 1/2 games and keeps them 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East.
One of the most interesting situations of the season set up Martinez's big hit. Francona decided to go to his bench for a pinch-runner and sent starting pitcher Clay Buchholz to run for Jason Varitek, who was on second base.
Dustin Pedroia lined a ball off the left-field wall that Rangers outfielder David Murphy jumped for but couldn't catch. Buchholz thought Murphy caught the ball, but Jacoby Ellsbury, who was on first after an RBI single, knew Murphy hadn't.
"It was crazy," Pedroia said. "As soon as I hit it, I thought we had the lead. But then I look down there and all hell was breaking loose in the baseline."
Buchholz paused to pick up the location of the ball with Ellsbury running toward him.
"It was off the wall, and I was definitely trying to get up the wall to get it," Murphy said. "I don't know how far out of my reach it was, but I think me jumping up for it and [Buchholz being an] inexperienced baserunner threw him off."
Buchholz slid into home plate headfirst -- something Francona didn't like to see -- and was tagged out. Pedroia ended up on second base as the go-ahead run, which set up Martinez's big hit.
"It was a real unique play," Francona said. "He did everything extremely well. He was in great position, but he thought the ball got caught. He put [Red Sox third-base coach DeMarlo Hale] in no-man's land."
The Red Sox kept adding from there. Jason Bay singled home Martinez a batter later, and J.D. Drew hit a two-run home run for the final runs of the night.
Boston's first runs came on David Ortiz's two-run home run in the sixth inning, which tied the score at 2. Ortiz then led off the ninth with a double down the right-field line that ignited the Red Sox rally.
"You think you've seen everything. That was one of the most exciting innings we've been part of. That at-bat Victor [Martinez] had was phenomenal."
-- Red Sox manager Terry Francona
Ortiz's production came from the seventh spot in the lineup, the first time Ortiz hit there since May 24, 2003, against the Indians. He went 3-for-4 with a three-run home run in that game and was moved up to the cleanup spot the next day.
Ortiz batted seventh on Friday night because he entered the game 4-for-39 (.103) with just two RBIs over his previous 10 games. Fifteen of his 16 home runs have come since June 6.
Jon Lester battled through six innings, allowing three earned runs. Lester said he wasn't feeling his best, even though he struck out 11 batters.
Lester now has double-digit strikeouts in six starts this season. He also joined Pedro Martinez as the only Red Sox pitcher to record two double-digit strikeout games against Texas in the same season, having struck out 11 Rangers on June 6 at Fenway Park.
"One of those starts that it's not easy," Lester said. "There are more of these than good ones. I made some pitches when I had to. I just tried to execute pitches when I needed to. It wasn't all there, couldn't get consistently down in the zone. It was just a battle."
The southpaw was successful at executing those pitches when he needed to.
Lester gave up a leadoff walk in the first inning to Omar Vizquel, which Michael Young followed with a two-run home run. He battled back to strike out the next two hitters, allowed a single, and then struck out another batter to end the inning.
Three innings later, Lester allowed two walks to start the frame, but he struck out the next three hitters. After giving up the Rangers' third run on an RBI single by Andruw Jones in the sixth, Lester responded by striking out the next three hitters again.
Friday night's outing was Lester's 16th quality start of the season, which puts him one behind Josh Beckett for the team lead.