|Closing Time: Twins 8, Red Sox 0||04.15.10 at 3:52 pm ET|
The Red Sox had their chances early against Twins starter Francisco Liriano, but after the team stranded four runners (including three in scoring position) in the first two innings, they were overmatched by the Minnesota left-hander from that point on. Liriano tossed seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out eight, and the Twins lineup exerted steady pressure on the Sox pitching staff, collecting 15 hits in an 8-0 win. (Recap.)
The Red Sox mounted a scoring threat right out of the gate. With one out in the top of the first inning, Dustin Pedroia singled and Victor Martinez doubled to put runners on second and third with one outs. That brought cleanup man Kevin Youkilis to the plate.
Youkilis typically excels in such situations. In his career, he entered Thursday with a line of .453/.468/.726/1.194 and 117 RBI in 171 plate appearances. But on Thursday, Youkilis struck out on three pitches, the last a nasty slider that he swung and missed. Liriano got Adrian Beltre to ground out to escape the threat unharmed.
Had Youkilis and the Sox jumped on the Twins left-hander early, the game might have assumed another complexion. But with those early missed opportunities, Liriano had the opportunity to settle in and dominate.
What Went Right For the Red Sox
–Dustin Pedroia laced three singles, and now has four multi-hit games this year, tied with Jacoby Ellsbury for most on the Red Sox. While April has typically been the worst month of the season for Pedroia (entering Thursday, his career average, OBP, slugging and OPS were all lower in April than in any other month of the year), he’s been great thus far this year, hitting .405 with a 1.253 OPS.
–Scott Schoeneweis continued to show promise as a left-handed specialist. Most notably, he punched out Joe Mauer with two outs and a runner on second to end a threat in the sixth. Though Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel later lined singles off of him, he has struck out six of the 10 left-handers he’s faced (while allowing three singles). Schoeneweis did, however, give up a two-run homer to right-hander Michael Cuddyer on a towering flyball just over the left-field fence, a couple feet to the right of the foul pole.
–Bill Hall took a pair of walks from Liriano. Not only was he the only Sox hitter to take a walk, but the game marked the first time since last April 27 that Hall had as many as two free passes in a game. For a hitter who finished 2009 with a .258 OBP, that is somewhat encouraging.
–Ramon Ramirez got his first swing and miss of the season, getting a fastball past Nick Punto. The promise, however, was short lived, as Punto doubled on the next pitch. Ramirez did get a couple more swings and misses in the eighth inning, and was credited with 1.2 shutout innings.
What Went Wrong For the Red Sox
–The Twins jumped all over Tim Wakefield, collecting 10 hits and six runs (five earned) against him in 5.1 innings. Wakefield kept the Sox in the game through four innings, in which he limited Minnesota to a single run, but a mix of some bad luck (notably including a Denard Span bloop double down the left field line) and some knuckleballs over the middle of the plate did in the knuckleballer’s day.
–The defense was sloppy. The Sox committed three errors: one by Hall (making his first start in center since 2007) who overran a single, one by Victor Martinez (on a rushed throw to second, which he once again fired high and right) and one by Adrian Beltre.
The team was also hurt by a mental error from Martinez. With runners on first and second in the bottom of the sixth, Denard Span hit a run-scoring double. But Kubel stumbled while rounding third, leaving Span far off of second. Martinez hesitated, then threw behind Span at second. His throw there was late, and it allowed Kubel to race home with a run.
While Martinez has just one error thus far this year, he has performed poorly behind the plate.
–Adrian Beltre got into his second three-ball count of the season when he took a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning. However, in a situation where a walk would have meant a run, he chased a fastball that might have been ball four, pulling an up-and-away fastball to shortstop for a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play. Beltre has now batted 34 times this year without a walk.
–J.D. Drew went 0-for-4 and struck out three times. While all of his at-bats came against left-handed pitchers, Drew has struggled throughout the early days of the season, hitting .143 with a .476 OPS and 13 strikeouts in 28 at-bats.
–With Jacoby Ellsbury already out, Mike Cameron also proved unable to play due to a lower abdominal strain. If those two are unavailable, the Sox bench becomes extremely thin, without a desirable outfield backup behind the outfield combination of Jeremy Hermida, Bill Hall and J.D. Drew.
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