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Closing Time: Pedroia, Red Sox pitchers fight back to claim win over Pirates

06.26.11 at 4:57 pm ET
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Left-hander Andrew Miller allowed just two runs (one earned) in six innings of work for the Sox on Sunday. (AP)

It wasn’t exactly an emphatic response, but ultimately, there is little question that Dustin Pedroia and the Red Sox were satisfied with the measure of revenge that they enacted in the series finale against the Pirates.

Pedroia became irked when Pirates starter James McDonald went up and in to him in three straight at-bats. The second baseman shouted at the pitcher, and Sox starter Andrew Miller appeared to try to settle accounts in the bottom of the sixth, when he fired a couple fastballs at the feet of catcher Eric Fryer en route to a walk (with Miller’s pitches resulting in warnings being issued to both benches).

But in the top of the seventh, Pedroia stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs in a 2-2 game. He bounced a run-scoring groundout to short up the middle, giving the Sox a 3-2 lead en route to a 4-2 victory to salvage the final contest of a three-game series in Pittsburgh.

With the win, the Sox — who lost in Pittsburgh on both Friday and Saturday nights — averted their first sweep at the hands of a National League team since they dropped a two-game set to the Phillies in 2003. The Sox, who typically use interleague play to pad their wins total, have now evened their record against the senior circuit at 6-6 this year.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Andrew Miller (1-0) continued to show promise in the Red Sox rotation, claiming his first victory with Boston and dropping his ERA in two outings to 3.09. In his second start since being called up to the majors, the 26-year-old tossed six innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on five hits (all singles) while walking two, hitting a batter and striking out four for his first win in the Sox’ rotation.

For the second straight start, 65 percent of his pitches (74 of 114) were strikes. Notably, of his eight swings and misses, five came on fastballs, on a day when he averaged 92 mph and topped out at 95 mph.

–The Sox took advantage of terrible fielding by the Pirates, who committed a season-high four errors that resulted in three unearned runs. Even so, while the team had some productive outs (including a pair of sac flies and Pedroia’s run-scoring groundout), the Sox went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

–For all of the concerns about Pedroia’s foot entering the season, it is notable that he is stealing bases as never before. He swiped second in the first inning, giving him 15 steals (in 17 attempts) on the season. He is on pace for 32 steals, a mark that would shatter his previous career high of 20 (achieved in both 2008 and 2009).

Adrian Gonzalez notched two singles, giving him 36 multi-hit games this year. He is on pace for 76 games with at least two hits this year, giving him a chance to break the mark of 72 multi-hit games by Wade Boggs in 1985 that represents the most by a member of the Red Sox since at least 1919.

Jonathan Papelbon, pitching for the third time in 16 days and first time in five days, looked a bit rusty when he took the mound for the ninth inning, walking the first batter he faced (Ronny Cedeno) on four pitches. However, he recovered quickly, punching out Fryer on seven pitches (all fastballs, the last a 96 mph offering) en route to his 14th save of the year and first since June 16. His scoreless ninth concluded three innings of hitless relief by the Boston bullpen, following perfect frames by Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Red Sox’ defense struggled. Josh Reddick misplayed a fly ball into an error, and a bad hop prevented Marco Scutaro from fielding a potential double-play grounder. The error resulted in an unearned run charged to Andrew Miller. Later, Kevin Youkilis couldn’t convert a pair of tough plays in the sixth, as his throw to first on what appeared to be a sac bunt attempt by Chase d’Arnaud was late, resulting in a single, and he also failed to glove a smash single off his glove by Andrew McCutchen.

Darnell McDonald continues to make little impact. After entering the game as a replacement for injured right fielder J.D. Drew, McDonald went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. The punchout came with runners on first and second and two outs in the third, and McDonald later popped out with runners on second and third with two outs and ended the ninth with a two-out, bases-loaded groundout, dropping to 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts with runners in scoring position and two outs, dating to last year.

McDonald did reach on an error when his cousin, Pirates starter James McDonald, threw away a comebacker (a misplay that helped the Sox to score their second run of the game), but he was cut down trying to steal to end the sixth inning.

J.D. Drew had to leave Sunday’s game in the second inning due to a left eye contusion. The right fielder had a foul ball bounce off his eye during batting practice. Initially, he remained in the lineup, but after striking out in his only at-bat, he left the game.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, andrew miller, darnell mcdonald, Dustin Pedroia Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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