Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sox Snag First Win

After a thunderous 12 run, 18 hit outburst in a losing effort on Easter Sunday, Boston's bats had fallen silent again.  Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez held them in check through six, yielding just a single run on Dustin Pedroia's sixth inning solo shot.  Toronto's lineup hadn't fared much better, managing a pair of runs off southpaw Felix Doubront and coming up empty in three innings against Scott Atchison.  But that looked like it would be just enough to take this intradivisional matchup and hand the Sox their fourth straight loss to open the season on the heels of their historic September collapse.  Sure, Boston had Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis due up in the top of the ninth, but they had endured another quiet night, combining for one hit--the Laser Show's long ball--in ten trips to the plate.  In the wake of an opening weekend filled with crushing defeats, Red Sox fans had little reason to be optimistic .

John Farrell waved in Sergio Santos, the former Chicago White Sox closer who quietly emerged as a solid closer in the Windy City last season with his 30 saves and gaudy 13.1 K/9 rate.  In a curious move for a "rebuilding" team, GM Kenny Anderson traded him away for prospect Nestor Molina (in other words, nothing).  Alex Anthopolous, the second coming of Billy Beane, picked Anderson's pocket in what was just one of a flurry of moves intended to bolster Toronto's bullpen over the winter.  Along with Santos he added proven relievers Francisco Cordero, Jason Frasor, and Darren Oliver to the relief corps.

But Santos is somewhat erratic and had already blown his previous save opportunity on Saturday against Cleveland when he surrendered a game-tying home run to Asdrubal Cabrera in the bottom of the ninth.  The Blue Jays bailed him out and went on to win the game 7-4 in the twelfth, but this time he would not be so fortunate.

Pedroia greeted him with a double to left, then advanced to third on a passed ball by J.P. Arencibia.  Santos loaded the count, and left his payoff pitch up in the zone for Gonzalez to drive.  Not trying to do too much, Gonzo went the other way with it and lifted a game-tying sacrifice fly to Eric Thames in left.  Santos, having just blown his second save in as many opportunities, bounced back to whiff Youk (still hitless on the year) for out number two, but followed up his timley K with consecutive walks to David Ortiz and Cody Ross.  New guy Ryan Sweeney stepped up and, first pitch swinging, slashed a ground ball single through the hole between first and second to give the Sox their first lead of the game.  Ross and Sweeney both moved up a base after Jose Bautista's throw got away from Arencibia, putting two runners in scoring position for Jarrod Saltalamacchia to add some insurance. 

As it turned out, Salty didn't even have to take the bat off his shoulder.  Not only did Santos issue another free pass, his third in four batters, but he also shot himself in the foot by uncorking a wild pitch,  Wit runners at the corners, Farrell came out to fetch his rattled closer and replace him with Luis Perez, who induced a groundout from Mike Aviles to stop the bleeding and end Boston's rally.

But the damage had been done, and when interim closer Alfredo Aceves (little more than a day removed from his own meltdown) set down Brett Lawrie, Thames and Arencibia 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Boston had their first of what will be many victories in 2012.  They didn't make it look easy, but then again they rarely do.

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