By John Henry, The Sports Xchange
ARLINGTON, Texas — The long ball has again taken over the major leagues, but on Monday at Globe Life Park, it was the soft touch of a ball hit like a pitching wedge that did the trick for the Boston Red Sox.
Andrew Benintendi’s bloop single over a drawn-in infield with the bases loaded drove in two runs in the 11th inning and gave Boston a 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Benintendi dropped the ball just over the head of backpedaling shortstop Elvis Andrus to score Tzu-Wei Lin, who had walked against Texas reliever Ernesto Frieri, and Mookie Betts, who had doubled.
Dustin Pedroia, who went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, including a two-run single in Boston’s three-run sixth, was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree (1-2) earned the victory, retiring all six batters he faced in the 10th and 11th, including three strikeouts.
Boston earned its fifth win in a row.
“I was just thinking about trying to get something to the outfield,” said Beninendi, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth. “Basically anything but a ground ball. And it’s a funny game and things tend to work like that.”
Frieri (0-1) gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in the 11th, including a one-out free pass to Lin, the Red Sox’s No. 9 hitter. In all, Rangers pitchers issued seven walks.
Both teams used six pitchers.
Texas’ Mike Napoli tied the game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth off All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. The homer was Napoli’s third in four games.
The Rangers could manage only three hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings against Red Sox starter Rick Porcello.
Rougned Odor, who had an error that led to three Boston unearned runs in the sixth and a 5-2 Red Sox lead, hit a solo home run in the fourth, and Carlos Gomez added a solo shot in the seventh.
Pedroia also made two good defensive plays, a diving stop on Andrus’ sharply hit ball in the 10th and a tough over-the-shoulder catch on Delino DeShields’ blooper on the next at-bat.
“He’s had a lot of great seasons here, a lot of great games,” Boston manager John Farrell said of Pedroia, “but tonight might be one of the better games he’s played in this uniform.
“He was the right man in the right spot at the plate, he was everywhere defensively. So they make decision to load the bases, and (Benintendi) gets just enough for the two-run single.”
Boston’s usually reliable bullpen, which entered having allowed only three runs in the past 22 2/3 innings, gave up two runs in the late innings as the Rangers tied the score.
Nomar Mazara’s single to left in the eighth cut Boston’s lead to 5-4.
Neither starter figured into the decision.
Porcello gave up three runs on three hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked three in a 110-pitch outing. He continued a good run for Red Sox starters, who have posted a 3.09 ERA with 85 strikeouts and 20 walks in the team’s past 13 games. Porcello’s quality start was the team’s 10th during that stretch.
Texas lefty Martin Perez, in his first start since June 22 after a stint on the disabled list with a broken thumb, gave up seven hits and five runs, though only two earned, with four walks over 5 2/3 innings.
Two walks extended Boston’s two-run third.
“When you look at the whole game, and you continue to walk (hitters), you continue to turn the lineup over, you’re going to continue to give quality hitters more opportunities,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “You give them that many opportunities, they’re going to come through.”
Banister had a choice to make in the 11th with the bases loaded and one out. Play the infield in, trying to get a force out at home and possibly a double play, or align the infield in standard double-play depth.
“The likelihood of turning a double play there is very slim,” Banister said. “Obviously, you’re in a tough situation, so you make a decision on playing in there. Set up a double play for yourself at home, a play at the plate, play at any base, there’s a number of things that can happen.”
It turned out to be a perfectly placed bloop over the infield.
“You go back and look at some of the balls we hit hard, and then our bloop (in the 10th) doesn’t fall in,” Banister said. “The game of baseball is very cruel in certain instances and very rewarding for others.”