If you know the movie True Grit, you’re familiar with the name Rooster Cogburn. He’s an imperfect hero. He's a drunken U.S. Marshall who, when it comes it down it, is someone you want on your side—flaws and all.
True Grit. That quality of getting the job done no matter how ugly it may look.
Finally, the Red Sox are showing that quality.
It’s not just the fact they have won these games, it’s how they have won them.
On July 28, the Red Sox had a five-run lead against New York. But the Yankees battled back, and Mark Teixeira hit a game-tying, two-run home run against Vicente Padilla in the bottom of the eighth.
In this situation, the Red Sox would usually have just crumbled. But they didn’t. They actually showed grit.
Jacoby Ellsbury walked and Pedro Ciriaco tripled to drive him home in the top of the ninth. Dustin Pedroia hit a sac fly to make the score 8-6. Alfredo Aceves closed out the game and the Red Sox walked away with a win.
Ugly? Yes. But still a win.
On July 29, the Red Sox won in extra innings after blowing a two-run lead. Yes, the fact they allowed the Yankees to come back again is troubling—but the fact they showed some fight by scratching and clawing for the victory is promising.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off the top of the 10th inning with a walk.
Then things got interesting.
Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora ruled Will Middlebrooks fouled off a bunt attempt—but the ball clearly hit his wrist.
This was most animated Valentine has been all year. He got his money’s worth with O'Nora, and in the process he got Boston’s entire bench fired up.
Even Josh Beckett let O’Nora hear it, and third base ump Tom Hallion tossed Beckett from the game.
OK, so this wasn’t exactly Jason Varitek taking on A-Rod. But at least it was something. It was life. It was grit.
Perhaps it was a moment this team needed—a moment we can look back on and pinpoint as the turning point, or the moment things came together.
It may, indeed, turn out to be just another argument among a manager and umpire. But what followed made it feel special.
In a sign there is justice in baseball, Middlebrooks singled on the next pitch, sending Saltalamacchia to second base.
Ryan Sweeney grounded out and Saltalamacchia took third.
Then up came Ciriaco. Ciriaco is proving to be a key cog in the Red Sox grit machine. He's hit .343 with eight RBI, six stolen bases and two triples since being called up on July 7.
He kept his hot bat alive by hitting a little bloop single to bring Saltalamacchia home and give the Red Sox the lead.
Aceves closed out the game in the bottom of the 10th by striking out Raul Ibanez on a hard fought at bat. The Red Sox had their second gritty win in row. Or call it ugly if you want.
Clay Buchholz and Dustin Pedroia beat the Detroit Tigers on July 30 to give Boston a three- game winning streak. Buchholz went eight innings and Pedroia had three RBI in Boston’s 7-3 victory over Detroit. In the middle of some ugly wins, this one was actually pretty easy on the eyes.
But Justin Verlander and the July 31 trade deadline were looming.
No major moves were made by Ben Cherington at the deadline, but Verlander still stood between Boston and a four-game winning streak.
In a nice twist, Beckett, who was the subject of many trade rumors leading up to the trade deadline, was on the mound against Verlander—arguably the best pitcher in the American League.
It seemed Beckett was a changed pitcher to start. He retired the first eight hitters of the game, but seemed to just suddenly lose control. In the third he allowed an infield single, hit a batter and walked two to force in a run. He left the game in the third with back spasms.
Clay Mortenson, just called up from the minors, pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief.
The Red Sox scored four runs in the fourth and that was all they would need. (Ciriaco had an RBI single against Verlander in the inning). It was all they would need, in part, because of the weather.
With two outs and the bases loaded for Detroit in the top of the sixth, the rain picked up. The tarp came out, and after a one hour and 45 minute delay, the game was called.
The Red Sox won 4-1. The Red Sox had their fourth win a row. It just doesn’t get any uglier than that.
The Tigers have even filed a complaint with the league on the decision made to call the game, according to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.
Perhaps this winning thing will be a short lived phenomena for the Red Sox, but they have a four-game streak going, one as ugly as you can imagine, full of true grit, and it’s been a beautiful thing to watch.