8-6: Sox stage come back on Tribe, 6-4

The Boston Red Sox survived a short outing by Jon Lester and scrapped their way to a 4-4 tie in the top of the 9th. Manny Ramirez played the hero again, pounding a Joe Borowski pitch for his 493rd career home run and a 6-4 advantage, which became the margin of victory. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th for his 4th save of the young season.

Lester struggled yet again with walks, not pitching at least five innings for the second time in four starts. There’s a pattern developing; he can get away with it for about three innings, then things start to get dicey. Lester fell behind hitters and went deep in counts, and needed 97 pitches to last just 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits and five walks. Lester’s fastball velocity was very inconsistent, ranging from 89-93 mph, and the pitch f/x break values were scattered.

The Sox rotation has been disappointing so far, after the dominating performances of 2007. We need Lester to get us to the sixth inning every time out. However, it’s still early, and it’s not hurting us too much in the standings thanks to a regrouping bullpen and an incredible April by Manny, Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew.

Jake Westbrook pitched well tonight, using his sinker to very good effect and obtaining 10 ground balls over his 6 1/3 innings. He’s shown remarkable consistency in his three starts, and looks to be a solid middle rotation guy for the Indians. Even when he got into trouble in the 7th, Rafael Betancourt came in and struck out David Ortiz and Ramirez in succession. His only misstep was a bad pitch to Youkilis in the 8th, who cranked it over the left field wall for his first home run of the yearto make it 4-3.

Julian Tavarez really saved this game, entering with the bases loaded and one out in the 5th. He struck out Ryan Garko and Jason Michaels, and went on to add two more scoreless innings. He should get a lot of credit for this one. The Sox scrapped for a run in the 7th on a walk by Sean Casey and consecutive infield singles by Coco Crisp and Dustin Pedroia.

Mike Timlin (1-0) pitched a scoreless 8th and was credited with the victory for his outing, which was encouraging. His experience is valuable, and that sinker of his is still fairly effective, so he’s a valuable part of this bullpen.

Cleveland brought in Borowski (0-2) to close it out with a 4-3 lead, and it backfired for the second game in a row. Julio Lugo got a critical double down the line (his first hit in his last 17 ABs), and was sacrificed over to third by a Coco bunt. Actually, the play at first was pretty close, and Crisp could have easily been ruled safe. Some NL team should really take notice of how well Coco has been bunting this season. With one out, Pedroia did a very good job of waiting for his pitch, and lifted a long fly to left, scoring Lugo to tie the game.

Ortiz blooped a single into left down the line for his second hit of the game, and Francona chooses to pinch-run with Jacoby Ellsbury. With two outs and a tie score? I wasn’t thrilled with that choice, unless the surgically-repaired knee is indeed a problem. What are you going to do if this thing goes 12 or 13 frames? You might need Papi in there for that, don’t you think? Anyway, it was all rendered moot when Manny belted the first pitch to deep left for the final runs of the game.

People are still trying to figure out what Borowski is doing closing when Betancourt is there. He’s actually lost some velocity this season, and was throwing low-80s today. Kind of funny, MLB’s pitch f/x system registered all of his pitches as changeups today. What a difference in confidence when Papelbon enters the game to save it versus Borowski, don’t you think? Paps came in and blew away Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera, then very nearly got burnt on a high fastball to Travis Hafner, who sent it to the wall in centerfield, into the waiting glove of Crisp.


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