The Boston Red Sox completed their first series sweep last night, winning all three games at Target Field against the Minnesota Twins. Boston dominated one game, but the Red Sox pitching woes continued in the first and third games, keeping the tension high.
In Game 1, Boston took an early three run lead thanks to an Adrian Gonzalez sac fly and a two run blast from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but Jon Lester gave the lead back in the fourth inning. The Red Sox ace gave up a two run double to Ryan Doumit and a two run home run to Danny Valencia in quick succession. The twins extended their lead in the fifth with a run scoring on a double play ball from Jamey Carroll.
It took some late game heroics from Cody Ross to save this one. Before the seventh inning, Ross was 0-2 with a strikeout on the day, but he flipped a switch in his third at bat and tied the game with a two run home run off to left of Twins starter Jason Marquis. When an error put Franklin Morales in tough spot to start the eighth, Daniel Bard was called in for his first relief appearance and he shutdown a Twins rally. Ross then went the other way in the top of the ninth against Matt Capps for a solo shot to give Boston the lead. Alfredo Aceves got his third save of the season to lock down the 6-5 win.
Game 2 was all Boston as the offense lit up Twins pitching for eleven runs on eight hits. David Ortiz continued his early season domination with another home run in the third inning and Mike Aviles had a monster game, with four hits in five at bats including a home run and an RBI double. He also scored three times from the led off spot, where he has been a revelation in the absence of Jacoby Ellsbury. Josh Beckett was strong on the mound in this one as well, going six innings allowing two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out five. Kevin Youkilis also came to life in this one, with two hits in four trips to the plate.
Game 3 was a nail biter, reminding Red Sox fans that no lead is safe with this bullpen. This time Clay Buchholz was the victim of the team’s inabilitiy to keep inherited runners from scoring. After five strong innings in which Buchholz allowed just one run, the beleaguered Red Sox starter came unglued in the sixth inning while protecting a 7-1 lead. He started the sixth off with a strike out- just his second of the night- and then allowed tow singles and an RBI double. He was pulled following a walk to Jamey Carroll, handing the ball of to Scott Atchison. Atchison faced just one hitter, Joe Mauer and allowed an RBI single. Justin Thomas was called in to face the lefty Justin Morneau and he also failed to stop get his man, allowing an RBI double. His next pitch was horribly wild and hit Chris Parmelee in the head. Initial tests have showed no signs of a concussion but it was certainly a terrifying moment for everyone watching. Matt Albers followed Thomas and allowed an RBI single running Buchholz’s earned run total up to five for the night.
If there was any good news to take away from this one with respect to the bullpen it was the fact that after that near total collapse in the sixth, Boston relievers held the Twins scoreless for three straight innings without help from Daniel Bard. Vicente Padilla , Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves all pitched scoreless innings to lock down the win. Aceves made his fourth save a dramatic one. He got a quick ground out but then walked one and then allowed a hit. He got a break when an easy play broken bat grounder was called fair despite being shown foul on the replay. With two down he then a hit batter to load the bases before striking out Denard Span to end the game.
On offense Cody Ross and Mike Aviles continued to power the Sox. Ross hit an RBI single in the second and one batter laterAvileshit a three run home run. Saltalamacchia added two more runs with an RBI single in the third and Adrian Gonzalez provided the difference maker in the fifth with an RBI single. Dustin Pedroia had a big day as well going three for four with a double and a triple and scoring two runs.
The sweep can at an excellent time for the Red Sox as the Yankees got swept by the Texas Rangers. Thus far, the AL East’s top teams, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, are tied at just 11-7 and so Boston remains a series win or two away from the top of the standing in spite of all their struggles. The New York Yankees are just 2.5 games up on the Red Sox. Unlike the AL West, where Texas where has asserted a 5.5 lead over their closest competitor and lead the last place Los Angeles Angelsby 8.5 games, the AL East still appears wide open.