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Closing Time: Offense carries Sox to sweep of Mariners

07.24.11 at 5:00 pm ET
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All-Star Michael Pineda wasn’t able to shut down the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, as the Sox battered him for seven hits and five runs in the first inning, then later tacked on seven more in a 12-8 defeat of Seattle to sweep the three-game series. The Sox are now three games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East.

The 12 runs marks the 14th time this season the Sox have scored in double digits. The Sox have far and away the best offense in the majors, ranking first in batting average, runs, OBP and slugging.

Boston’s five-run first — highlighted by a two-run home run by Kevin Youkilis — brings its total to 70 first-inning runs this season. While the seventh inning — in which Jacoby Ellsbury scored Josh Reddick with a bloop single Sunday — remains Boston’s favorite inning, the Red Sox’s quick start led to Pineda lasting just 4 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his rookie season.

Although seven of the Red Sox’s runs were charged to Pineda, Boston’s real success came against the Mariners bullpen. Pineda was lifted for Aaron Laffey with two men on and one out in the fifth, and Pineda then gave up four hits without recording an out. Carl Crawford and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each drove in two with singles. The Red Sox added single runs in the sixth and seventh.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

Crawford continued his strong return from the disabled list, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs. He also reached on a walk. Crawford entered Sunday’s game a career .308 hitter with .484 slugging with runners in scoring position. He has now hit in five of six games since returning from the DL, continuing the strong play leading up to his injury (hits in previous 11 of 14 games).

Adrian Gonzalez is quickly breaking out of whatever minislump he was in after the All-Star Break, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had his best day yet with the Red Sox, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs, twice driving in two with singles to right. Sunday was Saltalamacchia’s third three-hit game of the season.

Kevin Youkilis‘ two-run home run in the first was the eighth allowed by Pineda to a right-handed batter. He’s batting better than .375 at home this year, more than 180 points better than his away-game average. His power numbers are surprisingly similar (6 HRs, 35 RBIs at home, 7 HRs, 35 RBIs away).

Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a double off the Green Monster in the bottom of the sixth.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

Tim Wakefield pitched well enough to pick up his 199th win and 2000th strikeout with the Red Sox, but finishing games continue to be a problem for him. Sunday’s seventh-inning grand slam by Brendan Ryan marked the third time in his last four starts in which Wakefield has given up at least a run in his final inning of work.

— Starting games has also become a problem for Wakefield. Miguel Olivo‘s two-run home run in the first marked the fourth consecutive start in which Wakefield has allowed at least one first-inning run. Prior to Sunday’s game, Wakefield’s 4.50 first-inning ERA was second lowest ERA of any of the first six innings.

Marco Scutaro went 0-4 out of the nine-hole, lowering his batting average to .260.

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