After waiting out a 49-minute rain delay at Fenway Park, Boston's lineup came alive in the seventh inning and beyond, stealing a 5-3, 13-inning showdown with the Cardinals. In doing so, the Sox avoided their first home sweep of the season and broke out of a nasty funk against Cardinals pitching.
It was Kevin Youkilis who provided most of the damage for the Red Sox, as the first basemen launched two home runs over the Green Monster in left field -- the latter being a walk-off two-run shot that finally put and end to a four-hour, 25-minute game.
"You can't beat it," Youkilis said. "I think it was even more exciting when you have a 13-inning game and you just want to get out of here. But it's always a great feeling, and it's great to do it at home."
The two homers were Youkilis' only two hits on the day, but they came at important junctures. His first, off starter Joel Pineiro in the seventh inning, cut the Cardinals' lead to 2-1 and finally put the Sox on the board. At the time, Pineiro was cruising through the Boston order.
The Sox tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Julio Lugo in the eighth, then took the lead when reliever Chris Perez walked home Dustin Pedroia. Harboring a one-run lead going into the ninth, closer Jonathan Papelbon came in looking for his 22nd save.
But Papelbon surrendered a game-tying RBI double to pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy despite striking out the first two batters he faced.
"That's the way we had it drawn up; you have Manny [Delcarmen] go in, then Okie [Hideki Okajima], and then you get to Papelbon," reliever Javier Lopez said. "That's the recipe for success we've had going for a year now.
"You get caught up in it, because he's pretty much lights out every time he's in there. When [he blows a save opportunity] you're shocked for a second, but we did it in true Red Sox fashion. We hung in there and battled."
|"Every five days, he gets the ball, he works quicker. He's throwing strikes. He's doing a great job."|
|-- Red Sox manager Terry Francona on Jon Lester|
They held up, allowing just the lone run by Papelbon in the ninth. But their success came with a nice heaping dose of defense along the way.
With one out in the 13th, Lopez replaced Craig Hansen and immediately gave up a double to Chris Duncan. Kennedy -- who went 3-for-3 after pinch-hitting in the ninth -- knocked a single to right field and Duncan headed for home.
Right fielder J.D. Drew came up firing, throwing out Duncan and preserving the 3-3 tie.
"In a game like this, sometimes you need a play like that," said manager Terry Francona.
It appeared that way on Sunday, a day when offensive production took a backseat to strong pitching and strong defense. In each inning between the 10th and the 12th frames, Boston led off with a double. In each instance, that lead runner did not cross the plate.
"We had that runner on second and couldn't score," said Francona. "And some days that's what it takes is for someone to run the ball out of the ballpark."
Once Drew's throw kept the game tied heading into the bottom of the inning, Youkilis took advantage of the situation.
"J.D. made that great throw; when the bats weren't going as well, we did a lot more on defense," Youkilis said. "There's a lot of great stuff we did on defense today to keep us in this game."
Nearly lost in the intensity of the latter six innings was the production of starter Jon Lester in the first seven. Still, Lester did exactly what he's done in his previous five starts: engineered a strong performance that led to a Red Sox win. He went 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on nine hits.
"It's getting a little repetitive, but that's a good thing," Francona said. "Every five days, he gets the ball, he works quicker. He's throwing strikes. He's doing a great job."
With that type of pitching and a little timely hitting from the lineup, the Sox stole the series finale while hoping to keep a little of that momentum heading into a series with the National League West-leading D-backs starting on Monday.
"It was just good to get out of here with a win and not get swept," Youkilis said. "Getting out of here with a win was huge for us."
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.