24-17: Sox drop three in Minnesota

The Red Sox offense continues to lead the American League in team hitting by a huge margin (.294/.365/.454, compared to second-place Texas at .268/.346/.432), but has struggled to score a lot more runs as a result of stranding runners on base. They stranded 79 baserunners over four games, compared to the Twins’ 47. This is a regular thing with the Sox. While this is frustrating to no end, Boston did score 22 runs in the series, so you can’t really blame the offense. They were all pretty close games, and we could have easily split or taken the series.

Game 1: Boston 6, Minnesota 7

The Twins finally got a look at the left-handed pitcher they passed on this winter. Instead they traded Johan Santana to the Mets to get Carlos Gomez. Lester threw a lot of pitches early again, but settled down a bit fo last 5 1/3 innings. He gave up five runs on eight hits, but an error by Julio Lugo could have lessened that, and he only walked one. On his side, Boof Bonser wasn’t impressing anybody, either.

Great outing by Hideki Okajima; his two innings on just 15 pitches were just pristine, and hopefully mean all is well in Oki-land again. He held the line on the Sox’ 6-5 lead going into the 9th.

It was all a bit sensationalized that Jonathan Papelbon blew his second straight save; anyone who watched the game knows that Mike Lamb‘s bloop 2-run single over third base is nothing to get worked up about. Papelbon admits that the fateful splitter was maybe a little flat, but he’s fine. The rumors of his demise are definitely premature.

Lugo‘s head collided with Matt Tolbert‘s knee on a takeout slide in the 6th inning at second base, and he’s not feeling too well after that.

The Sox actually fought hard to get back into this one, and it’s a shame they couldn’t pull this one out.

Game 2: Boston 5, Minnesota 2

The Sox hit four solo homers off of Minnesota pitching, and got good pitching to win this one easily. Daisuke Matsuzaka (6-0) went a very strong seven innings on just 96 pitches, striking out seven, walking three and allowing 6 hits. He defintiely wasn’t perfect, having a ball slip out of his hand in the 3rd and walking in a run, but in general he was just throwing more strikes at the edges of the strike zone; this was also his second 7-inning start in his last three appearances, which is encouraging. David Pinto notes that Dice-K’s success despite all the walks this season seems to be in his consistent game plan.

Lefty Glen Perkins (0-1) was pretty impressive, thowing his heater at 94-95 mph and tossing a sharp breaking ball with some confidence. The only mark against him before the 7th was Kevin Youkilis‘ solo shot in the 2nd inning. Man, look at Youk go. Apparently he’s being considered for AL Player of the Week honors, and he totally deserves it.

Coco Crisp hit his first homer of the year to lead off the 7th, and Jed Lowrie followed him by hitting his first Major League home run for the go-ahead run. Lowrie actually had three hits in this one, raising his average to .310. His stick is already big league-ready, from the looks of it. Lowrie is another player the Twins could have had in the proposed Santana deal

Hideki Okajima looked great in the 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon struck out 2 of 3 hitters in nailing down his 11th save in impressive fashion. He was noticeably mixing in his slider more, giving the Twins something else to think about up there.

Game 3: Boston 8, Minnesota 9

A frustrating game, as the Sox outhit the Twins 15 to 10, but just couldn’t plate their baserunners. They stranded 22 men in this one. They also had a chance to tie in the 9th with Manny Ramirez at the plate and a runner in scoring position, but there was no Mother’s Day Miracle this year.

Tim Wakefield (3-2) lasted only 2 2/3 innings in this one, his shortest start since June 1997. Usually very good in domes, Wakefield gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks. He gave up a 3-run homer to Craig Munroe and a 2-run shot to Adam Everett in the 2nd, putting Boston in a hole early.

Even still, the Red Sox came up just short in this game, staging a two-run rally against Twins closer Joe Nathan in the top of the 9th. J.D. Drew stroked a long double to center to score Kevin Youkilis, and Coco Crisp‘s grounder off Nathan’s glove scored Mike Lowell, but stayed close enough for Nathan to throw out Drew at third. Crisp promptly swiped second to get into scoring position, but Manny Ramirez, who was sitting this game out with a sore right hamstring until pinch-hitting for Kevin Cash, grounded out to short to end it.

Crisp went 2-5 with a triple and a HR in this one, and Alex Cora went 3-4 with a double in his return off the DL. Kevin Cash continued his good hitting, going 2-4 with an RBI single. Julio Lugo continues to sit with a possible concussion.

Game 4: Boston 3, Minnesota 7

Clay Buchholz (2-3) really struggled with his command, suffering bad innings in the 1st, 3rd and 5th innings. It would have actually been worse if not for a good defensive play by Sean Casey in the 5th. Buchholz lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing 8 hits and 5 walks in his worst outing this year.

Who would’ve thought that Livan Hernandez (6-1), a pitcher that was unemployed around a long time before finding a team this offseason, would be among the league leaders in wins? The Sox rocked him for 10 hits over 6 IP, yet managed only three runs, as he pitched out of jams time and again. The three of the first four Boston hitters all reached in the 1st, with Manny Ramirez smashing his 498th HR to right field, but Hernandez escaped without further damage.

Both bullpens did a good job in this one, with very clean outings by Javier Lopez, Craig Hansen and Mike Timlin. Unfortunately, Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain did the same on the other side.

The Sox had two baserunners in the 9th, but Crain got David Ortiz and Manny to fly out to to end the threat. I’ve always liked Crain, and think he could be the closer once Nathan moves on.


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