Monday, May 12, 2008

Sox Lose Mother's Day Battle to Twins

Tim Wakefield
The Red Sox lost last night 9-8, in a hard fought battle against the Minnesota Twins. Red Sox starter, Tim Wakefield, got the action going early...for the Twins, unfortunately. Somehow, Wakefield followed up his best outing of the season (a 5-0 win over the Tigers), with easily his worst of the season. After a quick 1-2-3 first inning, things looked promising. But, in the second inning the knuckleball went suddenly flat and the first three batters of the inning greeted Wakefield with a single, a double, and a home run to get the scoring started. Then, with one out, Wakefield walked Mike Lamb (you'll be hearing this name quite a bit) to set up the second home run of the inning, a 2 run shot for Adam Everett, his first of the year. The Red Sox escaped further damage in the inning, and saw a long road ahead of them staring at a 5-0 deficit heading into the third inning.

Kevin YoukilisTwins' starter, Nick Blackburn came out a little wild to start off the third inning and hit the first two Red Sox batters, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, putting runners on first and second base. The free passes would leave bruises, but allow the Sox to get on the scoreboard in an inning where the Sox' bats and the Twins' defense waged quite a battle. David Ortiz followed Pedroia with a single to load the bases with no outs. The battle picked up when Kevin Youkilis stepped in and ripped a line drive to the gap between short and third. It looked certain to score at least one run, until third baseman, Mike Lamb made a highlight film dive to his left to snare the ball for the first out. Mike Lowell then put some wood on the ball send a shot to right fielder Michael Cuddyer. Now, get this straight, Cuddyer does not have a limp noodle throwing arm like the Yankees' Johnny Damon. Cuddyer has one of those throwing arms you treat with respect and don't test very often. Unless, that is, you are blessed with little wings sprouting out of each of your ankles. Jacoby Ellsbury, who was tagging up at third base, has such wings. It felt like there was a moment where time stood still for just a fraction of a second. The ball had settled into Cuddyer's glove and his eyes had just popped up and focused on Ellsbury at third. Ellsbury had one foot on the bag, body braced to explode out of the tall grass like a cheetah after his prey. Their eyes met for just that split second and they both knew the race was on. Suddenly time sped up again. Ellsbury launched his body towards home, Cuddyer's arm launched the ball on a perfect arc to meet him at the plate. They both arrived at home at nearly the same time, but the fraction of a second the catcher needed to secure the ball and apply the tag was all the advantage Ellsbury needed as he slid across the plate just ahead of the tag for Boston's first run. The Twins defense ended the inning as Adam Everett reeled in a JD Drew flare.

In the bottom of the third, the Twins continued to take advantage of Wakefield. A single, a walk, a passed ball, and a wild pitch all added up to a situation where the Twins had runners on second and third with two outs. Wakefield could not get out of the jam as Mike Lamb laced a single to center scoring both runners. That was all Terry Francona could handle. With the Sox now trailing 7-1, Wakefield got an early shower as Julian Tavarez came in to try to settle things down long enough for the Sox to catch up. Tavarez would do his job, ending the third inning, and only allowing one unearned run on the fourth on an error by the usually steady Mike Lowell that would have otherwise ended the inning.

In the top of the fourth, Coco Crisp would remind us that Ellsbury is not the only Red Sox player on the team with speed as he hit a ball to deep left field and raced all the way to third base for a lead-off triple. You won't often see a triple hit to left field! The Sox pounded on Blackburn in that inning scoring two more runs. David Aardsma then came in for Tavarez and did a terrific job of holding the Twins scoreless through the 5th and 6th innings. Blackburn also held the Sox scoreless and Boston was now behind 8-4 going into the 7th.

Yesterday, Coco Crisp was swinging a pink bat as part of MLB's efforts to raise breast cancer awareness on Mother's Day. Players may opt to play with pink equipment which is signed and auctioned off afterwards to raise money towards the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Maybe Crisp should swing a pink bat every day! In the 7th inning, with 2 outs, and JD Drew having singled before him, Coco used that pink bat to launch his second home run of the season to edge the score closer to 8-6. But, in the bottom of the 7th, Mike Timlin surrendered a lead off home run to Craig Monroe, his second homer of the game, to provide the Twins with the insurance run they would end up needing to win.

Joe NathanIn the ninth inning, with the Twins still leading 9-6, closer Joe Nathan came in to ice the game. The Sox did not make it easy for him. After Ortiz grounded out, Youkilis and Lowell hit back to back singles, which JD Drew followed with a clutch double to center field scoring both runners and closing the score to 9-8. This set up another dramatic moment, as Crisp stepped in with his powerful pink bat ready to do more damage. Crisp scorched a pitch back up the middle that glanced off of the pitcher and rolled towards third base. JD Drew already had a sizable lead off second base, and when he saw the ball get away, his instincts kicked in and he took off for third. A runner at third with only one out would greatly help the Sox tie the game. But, Joe Nathan somehow made a fantastic play, as he managed to quickly recover the ball and toss it to third base just ahead of Drew for the second out. Kevin Cash was due up next, and although he was 2-4 so far that night, manager Terry Francona thought that sending Manny Ramirez in to pinch hit would be the safer bet. Manny had the night off with a sore quad, but made it clear he could pinch hit if needed. But, the odds did not play out for the Sox this time as Manny hit an easy ground out to end the game.

Lots of drama on Mother's Day. It is a shame when you can score as many as 8 runs, but not get the pitching to line up for an easy win. Wakefield had a tough night, but he'll bounce back, he always does. Alex Cora started at short for Julio Lugo, who was given one more night off. As expected, Jed Lowrie was sent back to Pawtucket to make room for Cora, and get more playing time in. Cora did not disappoint, playing flawless defense and going 3 for 4 at the plate.

Tonight, Sean Casey will be added back to the lineup and all expectations are for a reliever to be cut to make room. The question is, who? A good bet would be Craig Hansen, since he still has options to be sent back to Pawtucket. However, Manny Delcarmen, Julian Tavarez, and Mike Timlin have all had struggles this year. If the Sox are confident in using Hansen steadily now, we might see one of those players cut, which would require putting them up for waivers. My guess is they'll feel it is too early to make that strong of a move and simply send Hansen down for now. If not, I'd put my money on Timlin getting the cut. He's been fabulous for the Sox up until now, but his time in Boston is clearly winding down, and this might be the moment the Sox chose to part ways.

Stay tuned.

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

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