BOSTON — The Red Sox, rebounding from a 69-win season and the turmoil of Bobby Valentine’s only year as their manager, are doing some rather incredible things as they aim for their first trip to the postseason since 2009.
Nothing, however, comes close to what they did Thursday night.
Down 7-1 in the eighth inning and 7-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, Boston rallied for an 8-7 win over the Seattle Mariners, completing a sweep of the three-game series.
“We don’t quit. Ever,” said Boston manager John Farrell, who called the whole thing “magical.” “It might be easy thinking that you’re down five with their closer coming in, that it might be over. But there’s no quit in this bunch.”
Ten Red Sox batted against three pitchers in the ninth. All but one — David Ortiz — reached base. Daniel Nava capped the comeback with a long, bases-loaded single that probably would have delivered three runs if it weren’t a walk-off. Only one run was needed, and the Red Sox scored their 11th walk-off victory in 57 home games. Two of them actually came in the same day after they won in 15 innings early Thursday morning.
On a night when it looked as if they’d go lose to Felix Hernandez, the Red Sox rallied and moved back to a game ahead of the idle Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. Boston (66-44) now has the best record in the league, a season-high 22 games over .500.
The Red Sox, 2-35 when trailing into the eighth inning before Thursday, pulled off their biggest ninth-inning comeback in six years.
“They truly believe that there’s a chance to do something special, whether it’s on a given night or over the course of a given year — that one would be this year,” Farrell said.
Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen started the ninth in a non-save situation, and he faced four batters, allowing two hits and two walks. After a mix-up called the wrong pitcher in from the bullpen, Oliver Perez (2-3) came on and yielded a two-run hit to Shane Victorino and an RBI single to Dustin Pedroia.
Perez then struck out Ortiz. Enter Yoervis Medina, who thought he had been called in earlier in the inning, only to be sent back because interim manager Robby Thompson signaled for the wrong guy.
“When I put my right arm up, Gary (Darling, the crew chief) had already turned around and didn’t see me,” Thompson said. “We wanted to go to Medina there. Lesson learned when I made the motion for either hand.”
Jonny Gomes, who entered as a pinch hitter in the eighth and made a big throw and great catch in the top of the ninth, tied the game with a single (after getting a break on a 2-2 pitch that should have been strike three). Stephen Drew, who won Wednesday night’s game with a 15th-inning single, followed with a 3-2 walk to load the bases.
Nava then drilled the game-winning hit, and the Sox finished 6-1 against Seattle this year.
It was only a few nights ago that Nava committed a baserunning blunder in a narrow loss to Tampa Bay. On Thursday, he turned it around.
“It’s a lot of fun. Is it magical? I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll leave that up to you to decide, but it’s a lot of fun. I don’t think anyone saw that happening tonight.”
Said Victorino, who homered (No. 6) to make it 7-2 in the eighth: “Wins like this, we keep winning games like this we’re going to someplace that we want to be, obviously.”
Knuckleballer Steven Wright (2-0) worked two innings and got the win. He was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier in the day.
The Mariners, meanwhile, fell to 50-58 with the loss.
“Everything went their way in the ninth,” Perez said. “Really tough loss for us ’cause of how Felix was pitching.”
Hernandez, who hasn’t lost since May 25, shook off a bit of a shaky start. His catcher, Henry Blanco, hit a grand slam (his second homer of the year, both slams) to build the big lead.
Hernandez, 6-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his last 12 starts, worked seven innings, allowing a run on six hits.
Boston starter Ryan Dempster was taken off the hook by the comeback. Now 2-0 with five no-decisions in his past seven starts, he gave up seven runs in six innings.
NOTES: RHP Jake Peavy, acquired late Tuesday night, joined the Red Sox and will make his first start Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. … Seattle OF Raul Ibanez, the 41-year-old who was on a tear before the All-Star break, has been slumping and was rested Thursday. OF/1B Michael Morse, 0-for-9 in Boston after coming off the DL, also sat. … Mariners DH Kendrys Morales had four singles Thursday, nine in the series. … The Red Sox sent RHP Jose De La Torre to Pawtucket to make room for Peavy. They also shipped rookie RHP Brandon Workman, who has been so good in three starts but is now likely headed for the bullpen, to Triple-A and recalled Wright, the move necessary because of Wednesday’s 15-inning game. Farrell said Workman would be back after the 10-day minimum stay in the minors. … RHP Aaron Harang opens Seattle’s three-game series in Baltimore on Friday night, and LHP Jon Lester goes for the Red Sox at home against Arizona.