This unforeseen start for Alexei Ramirez is hard to explain because the White Sox shortstop has never hit in April. And there he goes, jumping out of the gate with a 14-game hitting streak to begin the season.
Ramirez singled in the ninth inning and scored the winning run from second base Tuesday when Red Sox first baseman Mike Carp couldn’t handle shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ one-hop throw. Bogaerts had fielded Marcus Semien’s grounder toward second, but when the throw wasn’t gloved by Carp, the Sox had a 2-1 victory, their second in walk-off fashion in as many games.
The Sox (8-6) have a new hitting coach who preaches controlled aggressiveness, a theory that has them topping numerous American League offensive categories after being last in way too many last season. The aggressive part was never a problem for Ramirez; laying off pitches outside the zone has been another matter.
“Alexei is getting pitches over the plate, being his normal self, a swinging [aggressive] bat,’’ first-year coach Todd Steverson said. “A swinging bat is a dangerous bat, but it’s more dangerous when you’re hitting balls in the zone. He’s battled and laid off some tough pitches with two strikes.
“When you’re seeing it, you’re seeing it. That’s part of the game. To have confidence . . . you can say all the statistics and metrics you want to say, but there are no metrics for confidence. He’s pretty confident.’’
Ramirez caught Lance Johnson (1993) for second-longest hitting streak to start a season by a Sox player, and a hit Wednesday will tie him with Frank Thomas for the team record set in 1996.
“I haven’t thought about that,’’ Ramirez said. “What I’ve been doing is contributing to this team, trying to do everything I can to help this team win, and, to be honest, I don’t even know what Thomas’ record is.’’
As intriguing as Ramirez’s streak is, the biggest development of the night was starting pitcher Erik Johnson’s performance over 62/3 innings. After two rocky starts — he entered the game with a 9.58 ERA — the rookie struck out nine, gave up two walks and allowed three hits.
“He was sharp, and the ball was coming out with life,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
Johnson needed that to hang with Jake Peavy, who gave up three hits, too, including a homer to his pal Adam Dunn.
“It’s weird, but only early,’’ Dunn said of competing against Peavy (1.93 ERA). “Then after one pitch, it’s kind of an ‘all right, you really are trying to get me out’ kind of deal. The competitiveness takes over.’’
Dunn walked three times, raising his average to .294 and his on-base percentage to .468.
Scott Downs, Jake Petricka, Donnie Veal and Daniel Webb combined for 21/3 hitless innings in relief of Johnson. Webb made one pitch to earn his first career win, a beer shower and a game ball he said will go to his dad in Paducah, Ky.
An announced crowd of 13,402 (tickets sold) braved temperatures in the 30s. With some snow and ice present in the upper deck, the Sox closed it for safety reasons. Fans with tickets for the upper bowl were directed to seats on the lower level.