Friday, June 5, 2015

Sox Blow Early Lead, Settle for Split

Hunter connects for a three-run homer, his 200th with the Twins (Star Tribune)
The Boston Red Sox were in complete control of yesterday's series finale versus the Minnesota Twins through the first four innings. Boston led 4-0, had opposing starter Tommy Milone on the ropes, and Steven Wright was baffling Twins batters with his knuckleball. It looked as though the Sox were headed for an easy win, not to mention their first series win in almost two weeks.

That momentum evaporated with one swing of Torii Hunter's aging bat in the top of the fifth, when the 39 year-old crushed a three-run homer over the Monster to bring Minnesota back to within one. The Twins tied the game the next inning--Wright's last--aided by an overthrow from Pablo Sandoval into the Boston dugout.

The Red Sox still appeared to be in good shape heading into the ninth inning, what with Koji Uehara on the mound (one earned run allowed in the past six weeks) and the top of their order due up in the bottom half. All Koji had to do was keep the Twins off the board and turn the game over to Boston's best hitters--Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, and David Ortiz.

Shockingly, Uehara failed to record a single out despite getting two strikes on three of the four batters he faced. Brian Dozier stroked a two-strike single, then Hunter did the same. In a bizarre and highly questionable managerial move by Paul Molitor, Joe Mauer laid down a sacrifice bunt that dribbled out in front of the plate. Rookie catcher Blake Swihart rushed out to retrieve it and fired to third, hoping to nail the lead runner, but his throw was low and eluded Sandoval's glove, ending up in left field. The gaffe scored Dozier, giving Minnesota the lead, and advanced Hunter to third.

Trevor Plouffe worked the count full, then drove a single to left that absolutely could have been caught had Hanley Ramirez gotten a better jump and/or been a faster human being. Instead it landed over his head and bounced up against the wall. Hunter, who would have scored easily even if Hanley had made the catch, came home while Mauer moved up to second.

John Farrell had seen enough from his rattled closer, and removed him in favor of Craig Breslow. Breslow only made things worse, however, allowing two more runs to score and essentially putting the game out of reach for Boston. The Red Sox batters did their part by going down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth against Twins closer and likely All-Star Glen Perkins, who nailed down his second save in less than 24 hours.

The Red Sox hope to get back on track tonight against the only American League team with a worse record than them--the scuffling Oakland A's. Wade Miley will try to even his record at 5-5 as well as bounce back from a horrendous outing in Texas last weekend, where he was battered for nine hits and six runs (five earned) in four innings. Boston will face a much tougher opponent in the form of Scott Kazmir, whose ERA is more than two full runs lower than Miley's at 2.93. First pitch will be at 7:10 PM EST.

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