The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins faced off Wednesday night at Fenway Park. The game was played through a miserable semi-rain that constantly varied in intensity. The Red Sox were coming off of a disappointing road trip, where they went 2-3, although their most recent game WAS a come-from-behind victory over the New York Yankees. On the mound for the Red Sox was Clay Buchholz, while the Twins countered with Scott Baker. The game started off with a pitchers’ duel, as no one scored until the fourth inning, when reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer doubled in the game’s first run. The Red Sox struck back in the bottom of the inning, however, with David Ortiz hitting what replay would eventually show to be a two-run home run just over the red line on the Green Monster. The Red Sox put up a third run in the sixth inning on a series of singles. The Twins made it interesting in the ninth, scoring to bring things to within a run and putting two men on base, but in the end Daniel Bard was able to strand the two Twins baserunners and save the game. The final score: Boston 3, Minnesota 2. Buchholz got the win, Baker the loss, and Bard picked up his first save of 2010.
The Red Sox at the Plate
The big hitter for tonight was David Ortiz, who hit his eighth home run of the season and put the Red Sox ahead. While they would need Bill Hall’s sixth inning single to win the game, it was Ortiz who got the scoring started. He has seemingly found his hitting groove at last. Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre also had strong nights at the plate, each going 2-4 with a run scored. The Red Sox got good production from the middle part of their lineup and were able to score through a combination of basic hitting and power hitting. It’s this ability to score via multiple means that makes this offense as dynamic as it’s capable of being. When Jacoby Ellsbury finally returns to the lineup, the Red Sox will regain their speed at the top of the lineup. This will enable their offense to really play small-ball when necessary, giving them a third way to score and making their offense even more dangerous.
The Red Sox on the Mound
Clay Buchholz was excellent tonight. In 8+ innings of work he gave up just five hits and two earned runs, one of which was an inherited runner that Daniel Bard allowed to score. He struck out seven while walking just one batter. While his off-speed pitches weren’t always there (the weather may have had something to do with this), he had great command of his fastball. He did a fine job of keeping runners off the base path, and when they did get on base he was able to induce double-plays (two). He pitched methodically and efficiently, needing just 104 pitches to get into the ninth inning. He mixed his strikeouts with numerous ground outs (especially to second). Daniel Bard, meanwhile, allowed a runner to score, gave up a hit and walked a batter in an inning of work. While he recorded the save, there are far more efficient ways to go about doing so. If Bard is to become a reliable part of the Boston bullpen, he will need to pitch better than he did Wednesday night. Once again, the Red Sox bullpen came very close to giving a game away. Fortunately, tonight Bard bore down and forced the ground out necessary to win the game.
The Game in Context
This game is one of several now where we’ve seen great stuff from Clay Buchholz. He might finally be rounding into the pitcher we’ve been told he could be. Meanwhile, the bullpen is still shaky at best. The offense once again defied expectations, scoring enough to earn a win for a strong starting pitching performance. However, this is just one game. At the end of the day, the Red Sox are still just 21-20, 8.5 games out of first place. It was a good win Wednesday night. Let’s see if they can string a few more together.