The 2016 regular season is officially over, and all is well in the Nation. The Red Sox are AL East champs, the David Ortiz retirement tour is complete and the quest for the fourth championship this century begins Thursday when the Sox play the Indians in Game 1 of the AL Division Series. Boston finished the year with 93 wins. There were some frustrating nights, but plenty of memorable ones too. Today we’ll focus on the positives as I count down the 10 most exciting wins of the regular season. There’s a whole lot of Papi and Hanley, with a little bit of Mookie, Xander and Pedey mixed in as well.
10.) June 23 – Red Sox rally to beat White Sox in extras
Boston was facing a four-game sweep at the hands of the White Sox thanks to a rare poor outing by Rick Porcello, who allowed four runs and eight hits over 5.1 innings. Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, the Red Sox struck for four runs to take a 5-4 lead. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases, and consecutive hits from Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon tied the game. Marco Hernandez grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Ramirez and put the Sox ahead.
But oh, that Red Sox bullpen. Tommy Layne surrendered a three-run homer to Jose Abreu and Chicago led 7-5. The Red Sox, however, rallied again. They scored in both the seventh and eighth to tie the game, then got a walkoff single from Xander Bogaerts to end it with an 8-7 Boston win.
9.) May 1 – Vazquez lifts Sox to sweep of Yankees
It’s easy to forget now, but the return of Christian Vazquez was a big deal at the beginning of the season. The belief was he’d give the starting rotation a boost. Instead he delivered with his bat, hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Sox an 8-7 win over the Yankees at Fenway Park for the series sweep.
The Red Sox had to make multiple comebacks in this one after David Price, who allowed six runs over seven innings, struggled early. Alex Rodriguez homered and doubled to give the Yankees leads of 3-1 and 6-4. But the Sox’s offense picked up the slack. Pedroia and Bogaerts had three hits apiece, Shaw hit a game-tying three-run home run in the fifth and Ramirez drove in a pair. Vazquez, of course, capped things off in the seventh.
8.) May 14 – Ortiz drives in game-tying and game-winning run vs. Astros
If there’s anything we’ve learned from the past 14 years, it’s that Ortiz loves the big moment. That was no different this season as Big Papi provided more of the clutch hits we know and love. Just take May 14’s 6-5 win over the Astros for example. Clay Buchholz allowed five runs through the first two innings to put the Sox behind 5-2. But Ortiz cut the deficit to 5-3 in the third with a solo home run.
Papi wasn’t done there. With the Red Sox down 5-4 with one on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Ortiz ripped an RBI triple to center off closer Luke Gregerson to score Bogaerts and send the game into extra innings. Ortiz ended the game in the 11th with a walkoff double to score Bogaerts.
7.) Sept. 18 – Hanley keeps mashing as Sox complete sweep of Yankees
Ramirez started this crucial four-game series against the Yankees with a bang (we’ll get to that later) and ended it in similar fashion as the Red Sox completed the four-game sweep of the Yankees with yet another comeback win.
The Sox fell behind 4-0 thanks to a poor outing from Drew Pomeranz, but Ramirez gave them life with his third home run of the series – a three-run shot off CC Sabathia to cut the New York lead to 4-3. Jackie Bradley Jr. tied the game with an RBI single in the sixth, and Ramirez put it away in the seventh with even more magic in the form of a solo home run that gave the Red Sox a 5-4 lead that stood.
6.) April 29 – Ortiz breaks Yankee hearts again
If you’re a Yankees fan, you should probably stop reading this now, because it doesn’t get better. Ortiz did what he does best to the Yankees – make their lives hell. This time it was a two-run homer off Dellin Betances in the eighth to give the Red Sox a 4-2 win.
Once again, the Sox had to come back to make this happen. They trailed New York 2-0 in the seventh before Bradley tied the game with a two-run double that ended Masahiro Tanaka’s otherwise dominant night. In the eighth, a one-out single from Bogaerts set up Ortiz for the winning blast.
5.) June 7 – Sox make statement with wild win in San Francisco
It’s easy to forget just how fun this game was. It was a west coast game on a weeknight in June that preceded numerous thrilling victories, but it certainly shouldn’t be left out. Porcello was decent, allowing three runs and striking out six over six innings. It was the bullpen, Bogaerts and Chris Young that ultimately got the job done.
This is one the Red Sox had to grind out to win. They took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a double by Young in the second and an infield single from Bogaerts in the third. The Giants responded with a Jarrett Parker home run in the third and two runs in the fourth to go up 3-2. The Sox, however, came back in the weirdest of ways in the seventh. It started with a one-out walk by Bradley, who stole second and reached third on a throwing error. Young followed with a walk of his own. Ortiz grounded into what looked like an inning-ending double play, but Young dropped to the dirt to avoid the Brandon Crawford tag and the tying run scored.
That sent the game to extra innings. But that didn’t last long. Bogaerts hit a two-run single to center in the top of the 10th and Craig Kimbrel closed it out in the bottom half for the 5-3 win.
4.) Sept. 11 – Sox prevail in pivotal back-and-forth game in Toronto
The Red Sox were neck-and-neck with the Blue Jays in the AL East entering this mid-September series. After splitting the first two games, the finale had plenty of division implications. The Sox started strong as a three-run home run by Bradley put them up 4-1 in the second, but leads changed in a hurry thanks to Clay Buchholz’s latest implosion.
Buchholz loaded the bases with a single and two walks in the third. He then walked Josh Donaldson to score a run and surrendered a grand slam to Troy Tulowitzki to put Toronto up 6-4. The Red Sox tied it in the fourth on a two-run single by Bogaerts, but Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run homer in the bottom half gave the Blue Jays an 8-6 advantage. The Sox responded again. This time it took a Ramirez homer in the fifth to cut it to 8-7 and a three-run bomb by Ortiz to give the Red Sox a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in the eventual 11-8 win.
3.) June 24 – Red Sox rally past Rangers with four-run ninth
Recent history hasn’t been kind to the Red Sox against the Rangers. This game looked like much of the same after they fell behind 6-0 after a dreadful outing from Price. The Sox got to within 6-2, and then 7-4 on a three-run home run by Bradley in the sixth. But that was as close as they’d get until the ninth inning.
Bradley led off the ninth with a walk, but a strikeout and pop out gave the Red Sox two quick outs. That was when the magic happened. Leon hit a pinch hit double to score Bradley and Betts followed with a two-run homer to tie the game at 7-7. Pedroia walked, reached third on a single by Bogaerts and scored on a wild pitch to give the Sox a thrilling 8-7 win.
2.) July 31 – Pedroia leads comeback victory in Anaheim
This was one of those games that made this team so fun to watch. The Red Sox were shut down for most of the game by Angels starter Tyler Skaggs and a combination of relievers, and trailed 3-0 in the top of the ninth. Then the Sox’s bats finally came alive against Huston Street. The Red Sox led off the inning with a Bradley walk and Aaron Hill single before Ryan Hanigan and Brock Holt struck out to put the Sox on the brink of defeat.
Betts singled to score Bradley. Pedroia, down to his last strike, hit a mammoth three-run home run to center to put the Red Sox ahead. Bogaerts followed with a solo homer and the Sox held on for the 5-3 win.
1.) Sept. 15 – Hanley, man
Was there ever a question which game would top the list? This was by far the biggest win of the year. The Red Sox were clinging to a one-run lead in the division after dropping two of three to the Orioles, and a bad start from Eduardo Rodriguez against the Yankees had the Sox heading for a third straight loss. An improbable ninth-inning comeback didn’t just give the Red Sox a 7-5 win, it kicked off an 11-game winning streak that solidified the AL East title.
The Sox fell behind 4-0 thanks to a bad start by Rodriguez, then 5-1 with Heath Hembree in the game in the fourth. The comeback really began in the eighth when Ortiz homered to cut the deficit to 5-2. Things almost got worse for Boston in the top of the ninth when Joe Kelly worked himself into a bases loaded, one-out jam. But he got himself out of it with a strikeout and a line out.
Joe Girardi was determined to give Betances the night off. That was short lived as Young was hit by a pitch with one out, putting the tying run on deck. Pedroia followed with a walk. A base running gaffe by Young on a fielder’s choice by Bogaerts put runners on first and second with two outs for Ortiz. Big Papi singled home a run to make it 5-3. Betts followed with a single of his own to make it 5-4. Then Ramirez took the biggest swing of the Sox’s season, belting a fastball into the center field seats for the walkoff win.
Here’s to hoping we add a new topper to this list sometime in October.
Photo by David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images