BOSTON (AP)—The liner kept sinking as center fielder Adam Stern charged in. Catch it and Boston wins. Miss and let it get by him and all three runners could score to tie the game.
“I don’t think there was anyone breathing in that dugout when he dove for the ball,” Kevin Youkilis said.
Stern, a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, hit the grass and raised his glove with a piece of the baseball visible at the edge of the pocket. His diving catch ended a 7-4 win Tuesday over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and came ahead of his likely departure to the minors this week.
“I snow-coned it. I was like, ‘It keeps dying on me.’ I was wondering what the heck was going on,” Stern said. “That’s the way I play sometimes. I take some chances to make some big plays.”
With Manny Ramirez just starting to break out of a long slump and the Red Sox bats quiet for most of the season, they’ve had to rely on pitching, defense and young players like Youkilis, whose two-run double in the eighth broke a 4-4 tie, and Stern.
Mike Timlin (2-0) won despite allowing two runs in the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon loaded the bases on a single and his first two walks of the season but got his seventh save in seven chances, breaking the Red Sox record for saves by a rookie in one month set by Jeff Gray in 1990. Ruddy Lugo (0-1) took the loss.
Youkilis, who shuttled between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket the last two seasons, is now the starting first baseman.
“I’m not a role player anymore where I’m playing every seven days,” he said. “I’ve got to do something each day to contribute to a win.”
Stern is expected to be sent to Pawtucket as soon as Thursday. The Red Sox had to keep him all last season or offer him back to Atlanta because they chose him from the Braves in the Rule 5 draft. At that time, he hadn’t played above Double-A. Because he didn’t have enough time on the active roster last year, he has to spend the first 17 days this season with the Red Sox before they can send him down so he can play regularly.
“Whatever they want to do with me, that’s cool,” Stern said.
He stuck around long enough to grab Damon Hollins’ low drive.
“I was hoping it got by him somehow, but that is what great defenders do,” Hollins said.
With the score tied at 4, Mike Lowell started the bottom of the eighth with a double, his sixth in seven games, and pinch-hitter Trot Nixon walked. Stern forced Lowell at third and Alex Gonzalez struck out.
Then Youkilis, batting leadoff since Coco Crisp went on the disabled list April 11, doubled off the left-center field wall against Chad Orvella, scoring Nixon and Stern. Mark Loretta then singled home Youkilis for a 7-4 lead.
Ramirez, who had gone 2-for-21 before a 3-for-7 surge in his previous two games, drove in three runs, including two with a single in the three-run seventh that gave Boston a 4-2 lead.
Tampa Bay tied it in the eighth on Russell Branyan’s two-run double.
“I faced these guys in spring training and they got me pretty good,” Fossum said. “I changed my game plan against them tonight and gave us a chance to win.”
The Devil Rays finally scored off Matt Clement in the seventh when they took a 2-1 lead on Ty Wigginton’s leadoff homer, his sixth of the season, and back-to-back doubles by Toby Hall and Tomas Perez.
The Devil Rays used an extreme shift on lefty Ortiz’s first two at-bats. They used four outfielders, two players on the outfield grass on the right side and the first baseman in his usual position. There were no players on the left side of the infield. Ortiz grounded to shortstop Perez, playing to the right of second base, then doubled off the left-field wall. … The first four hitters in Boston’s lineup went 7-for-18 with seven RBIs. … Every Tampa Bay starter reached base. … Boston is 10-4 for the first time since 2002.