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Closing time: And about that Red Sox offense

04.11.10 at 5:38 pm ET
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All of a sudden the panic that ensued following Friday night’s Red Sox loss at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City has subsided. Not only did the Sox claim their first series of the season with an 8-6 win over the Royals, Sunday afternoon, but carried a fair share of optimism heading into their three-game set in Minnesota this week.

The much-scrutinized Red Sox offense finished their three-game set in KC having scored 19 runs. This time the Sox finished with 12 hits, led by Dustin Pedroia’s four and three from Adrian Beltre, who is now hitting .400. (Note: The Red Sox did suffer a setback when Jacoby Ellsbury was forced to leave the game with what appeared to be an injury to the left side of his chest after colliding with Beltre going after a foul ball. The team classifies it as a contusion of the ribs, and Ellsbury said after the game he would be fine. “It’s sore, but I’ll be fine,” he said to reporters.)

Key moment: Jumping out to a four-run lead out of the gate in the first inning, taking some of the pressure off of Clay Buchholz, who hadn’t pitched in a real, live game in nine days.

What went right for the Red Sox

- Not letting Meche breathe: Gil Meche (who was coming off shoulder issues) came out of the gate with superior stuff — a fastball that reached 97 mph and a potentially devastating curveball. But, in the end, a lack of command killed the pitcher who is in the fourth year of a five-year, $55 million deal, with the Red Sox seeing 35 pitches in the first inning on the way to scoring four runs in the initial frame. By the time Meche’s line was complete, he had surrendered seven runs on eight hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings, having thrown 88 pitches.

- Pedroia can hit the high-inside fastball: And, evidently, everything else. Most notably, Pedroia took a high-inside fastball from Meche and snuck it inside the left field foul pole for his team-leading third home run of the season. Pedroia, however, was also able to show his versatility by lining two singles into center and one into right. (All of Pedroia’s singles this season have gone to center or right.) The second baseman contributed to a top of the order that certainly carried its weight, with Ellsbury and Victor Martinez each coming away with two hits apiece. Ellsbury now has multi-hit games in four of his last five starts.

- Manny Delcarmen showed encouraging signs: Delcarmen offered some optimism for the middle of the Red Sox’ bullpen, going two hitless innings. The righty’s fastball sat at 94 mph, and touched 95 mph, which was more velocity than the Red Sox had seen from Delcarmen throughout spring training. He also mixed in seven changeups out of 27 pitches. It was certainly better than his middle-relieving teammate Ramon Ramirez, who continued his struggles by allowing three runs on three hits while not getting a single out in the eighth.

What went wrong for the Red Sox

- The jury is still out on Bill Hall at shortstop: With Marco Scutaro getting the day off (last seen giving J.D. Drew a neck massage with a rolling-pin-type contraption in the Sox dugout), Hall was presented the task of playing a position he hadn’t manned in the major leagues since 2006. On his first chance Hall committed a fielding error on Alberto Callaspo’s one-out pop up in shallow left field, allowing Scott Podsednik to score the Royals’ first run. As for the rest of his chances, Hall acquitted himself well enough, with one throw that was a bit wide, but otherwise no major issues.

- Clay Buchholz has had better outings: The final line wasn’t terrible: 5IP, 2ER, 7H, 2BB, K, 94 pitches, 59 strikes. But Buchholz did walk somewhat of a tightrope for much of the afternoon, throwing first-pitch strikes to less than 50 percent of his 24 batters faced (11). Buchholz allowed at least one batter to reach in each of his five innings. To be fair, other than a simulated game Buchholz’ exposure to live hitters in the last eight days had been nil.

- Not the best of times for David Ortiz: Ortiz not only went 0-for-4, but struck out for all four of the outs (although the third punch-out came on a pitch well outside the strike zone). One thing to note is how many pitches Ortiz is seeing, with the designated hitter seeing 30 pitches in his five at-bats. Ortiz entered the day having seen more pitches per plate appearance than any other Red Sox (4.80), well ahead of any other member of the lineup.

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