If there was any doubt about the Red Sox's ability to produce runs without injured slugger David Ortiz, they sure did a good job dispelling that notion Tuesday against the Rays.
This run-scoring juggernaut can generate production with or without Big Papi's power, and Boston demonstrated several ways of doing so in the team's return home after a 10-game road trip. The Red Sox scored four runs in the sixth inning to beat the American League East-leading Rays, 7-4, at Fenway Park.
"It's a matter of continuing to do what we do best," right fielder J.D. Drew said. "See the ball. Hit the ball. Grind out at-bats. We were able to do that, get some big hits in some key situations."
Drew was certainly the catalyst of the Red Sox's scoring arsenal. He went 2-for-3 on the night, crossing the plate twice and blasting a solo home run in the fourth inning that gave Boston a 3-2 lead.
Trailing, 4-3, in the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox took advantage of Garza's sudden control issues. After Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch and Manny Ramirez reached on an error by shortstop Jason Bartlett, Drew's poise at the plate loaded the bases by drawing a walk. Catcher Jason Varitek then singled up the middle, bringing in the tying run and opening up a four-run inning, highlighted by Coco Crisp's tiebreaking two-run double.
"Everybody kind of contributed," Drew said. "Coco had a big hit with the ball off the wall that pushed across some runs and set us up nicely."
Tampa Bay took an early lead on Akinori Iwamura's leadoff home run in the top of the first, then tied the game in the fourth and came from behind to take the lead in the sixth.
Boston kept fighting back, doing it against a strong Garza -- who entered with a 4-1 record and a 3.78 ERA -- by mixing speed, power and timely hitting. Mike Lowell gave Boston its first lead with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second.
The offense helped Boston starter Justin Masterson pick up his second win on the year despite withstanding his most difficult outing. Masterson, called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to take Daisuke Matsuzaka's spot in the rotation, allowed four runs on six hits in six innings. Considering he allowed a total of two runs in his first two outings against the Angels and Royals, it was the first time in Masterson's Major League career he was touched up in the midst of multiple-inning jams.
"He kept the damage minimal," Varitek said.
"It's a matter of continuing to do what we do best. See the ball. Hit the ball. Grind out at-bats. We were able to do that, get some big hits in some key situations."
-- J.D. Drew
Varitek said it was the first time Masterson had to deal with working out of an early deficit, and he did so with composure.
"He settled in. He made pitches and he's extremely poised," Varitek said. "Even after a two-run homer [by Carlos Pena], he went out there and made quality pitches. That's not an easy thing to do."
Masterson certainly got some help from his defense, especially from his right fielder. It was Drew, this time without the bat, that saved runs by running down two line drives near the warning track -- once in the fourth and again in the fifth -- that each potentially saved runs from crossing the plate.
"Things you can control are your defense," Drew said. "I've always prided myself on playing solid defense. It's just been situations where I've been able to make some nice plays, and it's magnified because it happened over a few games."
Manager Terry Francona said he thought Masterson's sinker didn't have as much sink in it as opposed to his first two starts, but he was pleased with the way his pitcher competed and was able to avoid giving up costly big innings.
"I said before the game, Masterson's pitching and we didn't give it a second thought, and I mean that as a compliment," Francona said. "He goes up and we expect him to give us a good ballgame, and he did that."
But the effort by Masterson and the Red Sox offense would have gone to waste without a strong performance by the relievers. Just one night after relinquishing an eighth-inning lead against Baltimore, Boston's bullpen was more than effective against the Rays.
After Javier Lopez allowed Evan Longoria and pinch-hitter Willy Aybar to reach in the eighth, Francona called upon Craig Hansen to get out of the jam. Hansen initiated two groundouts around a strikeout of Gabe Gross to preserve the 7-4 lead. Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 17th save with a perfect ninth.
"[Hansen] came in and pounded the strike zone with all of his pitches and was able to keep us in the ballgame," Papelbon said. "Our bullpen has been doing such a good job of that lately."
By preserving Masterson's lead generated by the offense's big bats, the Sox climbed to within a half-game of the division-leading Rays.
"Masterson pitched a great game," Hansen said. "We finished it off just right."