The 26-25 Boston Red Sox have finally found their way past .500, and did so against the best pitcher in baseball this past Tuesday night. With the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander in town, the Sox faced the prospect of going 0-6 in games where they could move above .500. Two starts prior, Verlander almost tossed the third no-hitter of his career against the Pittsburgh Pirates (having it broken up with 1 out in the 9th inning). Verlander would have been the sixth pitcher to have three or more no hitters, a list that includes Nolan Ryan and Cy Young.
No name Daniel Nava provided the big hit of the game. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Nava faced Verlander with the bases loaded and two out. On a 3-1 pitch, Nava swung through 99 mile per hour fast ball for a 3-2 count. Verlander came back with a 100 mile per hour seed which Nava laced down the left field line for a bases clearing three RBI double to put the Sox up 4-0. The Sox went on to win 6-3.
As noted a couple of weeks ago, Nava has been productive since being called up on May 10. Nava’s stats include a .314 BA, 16 RBI, and 2 home runs. This is quite amazing when you consider a little history. Out of high school, Nava attempted to walk-on at Santa Clara only to settle for being the equipment manager. After being unable to afford tuition, he left Santa Clara to enroll at the College of San Mateo (a junior college). He then returned to Santa Clara as a full scholarship player. After college, he went undrafted and made his way to professional baseball through the Independent League. Nava’s story is even more amazing when you consider the following: 1) he spent 60 games with Red Sox in 2010 and hit a grand slam on the first major league pitch he saw; (2) he was left off the 40 man roster in May 2011 when he was hitting .192; (3) he went unclaimed after being placed on waivers; and (4) Nava was not invited to spring training with the major league club this year.
Nava is microcosm of the contributions provided to a Sox outfield decimated by injuries. The list of Sox outfielders who have been or on the DL include Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney and Darnell McDonald (four of five were on the opening day roster). This has required the Red Sox to rely upon Nava and reclamation projects Marlon Byrd and Scott Podsednik. Things have so difficult, the Sox have resorted to playing thier first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, in right field so they can get the bats of Gonzalez, Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis into the line-up at the same time.
The combination of the grit shown by the Red Sox, David Ortiz calling a players only meeting to call out the pitching staff, the starting pitchers being to provide better performances and the bullpen being lights out over the last few weeks has made this an enjoyable stretch of baseball. More importantly, it is starting make me think the Sox can prove my third or worse prediction wrong.