Julio Lugo hadn't played in a week, but he was suddenly called into a key situation and he came through. Mike Lowell got a rare night off so designated hitter David Ortiz could play defense in a National League park. And there Lowell was, coming up with a clutch hit.
In other words, Friday night's 5-2, 13-inning victory over the defending World Series champion Phillies will probably go down as one of the most draining and gratifying games the Red Sox will have all year.
For a while, it looked like it would be one of the most deflating losses. Ryan Howard's equalizing solo shot with one out in the bottom of the ninth against Ramirez deflated the Red Sox, but only temporarily.
"So many good things happened," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
Perhaps the best was a third straight masterful performance by Jon Lester, who allowed two hits and a run over seven innings, walking two and striking out 11.
Instead of a win, Lester -- who became the third Red Sox lefty to strike out 10 or more in three successive starts -- took a no-decision. But in the end, the Red Sox got what they came for, staying two games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East.
"He's getting better and better each start," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "That's big for us. Every time, it seems like he's been out there now, he's dominated. Hopefully we can keep that rolling."
Ramirez's mislocated pitch to Howard was really the only blemish of the night for Boston's pitching staff.
"It was a slider that backed up -- it almost turned into a sinker," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He hit it well."
It isn't very often that a pitching staff only surrenders five hits over 13 innings, particularly against an offensive juggernaut like the Phillies.
But the Red Sox did just that, buying the bats some time to get in gear. The pitching staff combined to strike out 20 Phillies, the first time it had done so since Sept. 15, 1999, against the Indians.
"It was definitely tough, but guys hung in and had good at-bats late in the game and that's how we won the game," said Kevin Youkilis, who started the night at third base and ended it at first. "We had good at-bats and didn't give in."
Jacoby Ellsbury stepped up with the bases loaded and one out and ripped an RBI single to right to break a 2-2 tie in the 13th. Nick Green (sacrifice fly) and Lowell (RBI single to left) padded the lead.
"Lowell gets a night off, [Mark] Kotsay gets in early, they both helped us do good things," Francona said. "It's a little unconventional. We got David out after six. That's not how we're geared to play. We're already getting into our bench early. Then you start getting into extra-inning games, it can get a little dicey there."
Jason Bay jump-started the winning rally by lacing a single to left for Boston's first hit since the eighth inning. Lugo, who hadn't appeared in a game since June 5, came off the bench and slapped a pinch-hit single to left.
"It was huge for him to get in there and get a big hit," said Youkilis. "Total team effort tonight. So many guys played in this game and there's so many ways guys did something to help out the team tonight and that's a great thing."
The insurance gave Bard a cushion in his first Major League save opportunity.
"A lot of adrenaline, but I've closed games before -- not at this level or that caliber of hitters," said Bard. "You could see it with the fastballs I was leaving up. That's just a little bit of extra adrenaline. Fortunately, I was able to get enough of them down and throw the breaking ball for strikes when I needed to. That was enough to get me through."
But all of the good things the Red Sox did were nearly nullified with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning. Pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs almost won the game for the Phillies with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, belting a towering drive down the line in right against Justin Masterson. But it was just foul, instead of a walk-off three-run homer. Despite a protest by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, the umpires didn't utilize instant replay.
"I was like, 'Are you serious?' And then, as I saw it, the swing, he came all the way around it," said Masterson. "I was like, 'Please tail like you're supposed to.' It was slow, but it kept going. Foul ball."
There were no close calls like that against Lester. He was in complete control.
This, after his complete-game two-hitter against the Rangers in his last start. The run began on May 31 at Toronto, when Lester notched a career-high of 12 strikeouts over six innings.
After giving up a run in the second, Lester was downright unhittable. He retired 17 of the final 18 hitters he faced. In the fourth and fifth, Lester struck out six in a row.
"It sounds easy, it sounds dumb, but really just trying to execute pitches," said Lester. "I keep saying that, but that's really the focus. One pitch at a time, executing pitches. 'Tek did a great job again behind home plate."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.