Trailing 3-1 and down to their final strike in the ninth inning, the Sox scored three runs on Will Middlebrooks’ bases-loaded double against Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney. But if not for a pair of stellar catches by Victorino in the eighth, the game may have been out of reach.
First, Victorino chased down Jose Lobaton’s drive, catching the ball as he crashed into the fence in right-center, a play that caused his cranky back to flare up. Then, after nearly making a sensational sliding catch in foul territory, he hauled in Desmond Jennings’ shot to the warning track with an over-the-shoulder grab.
Victorino left the game in the ninth inning when his back locked up, but he’s hopeful he’ll play tonight in Minnesota.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad,” Victorino said. “It doesn’t feel that way.”
Regardless, Victorino doesn’t plan to change his aggressive style.
“There’s only one way to play, you know?” he said. “Try to play the game hard, make as many outs as you can. Sometimes in the process you aggravate things, but I feel OK. Just got to keep plugging.”
Victorino won three Gold Gloves as a center fielder with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox signed him to play right field largely because of his reputation as a stellar defender, but he has exceeded even manager John Farrell’s expectations.
“Not only is it holding true to form, but yeah, I would say it’s been better than I’d personally anticipated,” Farrell said. “I don’t think we can underestimate what it does for us. He’s cut some runners down. He’s kept some people to singles where it could be sure doubles. His routes and reads are spot-on. He’s done an outstanding job.”