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Closing Time: Red Sox bullpen implodes in devastating loss to Yankees

04.21.12 at 7:59 pm ET
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In one of the most dramatic bullpen collapses by their team in years, the Red Sox saw a 9-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning turn into a 15-9 loss, as the bullpen was charged with 14 runs (13 earned) in just three innings of work.

It was a horror show rarely matched in scale. Vicente Padilla came on with a 9-1 advantage in the top of the seventh. He recorded just one out while allowing five runs, four on a Nick Swisher grand slam. Matt Albers followed and, with the aid of an error by shortstop Mike Aviles, allowed two more runs without recording an out. That led to the entry of Franklin Morales, who got out of the inning, but then was lifted after a leadoff single by Eduardo Nunez in the eighth.

The Sox turned to Alfredo Aceves for a six-out save. Instead, he recorded none, allowing a pair of hits and four walks while being charged with five runs. He was followed by Justin Thomas, the left-hander whose only outs came courtesy of a missile of a line drive double play. When the dust had settled, the Sox had given up a second-consecutive seven-run inning, and a dizzying 15-9 deficit.

It was the largest blown lead by the Red Sox bullpen since June 30, 2009, when the team saw a 10-1 advantage turn into an 11-10 loss in Baltimore in the seventh and eighth innings. At 4-10 and with a full-blown bullpen disaster now on their hands, the Sox appear to be a mess.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The Red Sox entered the day with the second worst bullpen ERA in the majors, a 6.13 mark that was nonetheless far better than that of the team with the worst relief ERA, the Rays (8.49). However, despite that hefty advantage, the Sox managed to push right up against Tampa Bay, as their 13 earned run, three-inning yield pushed that to an 8.44 mark that was neck-and-neck for the worst.

– Aceves has now had three outings in which he has failed to record an out. He currently possesses a 24.00 ERA.

Kevin Youkilis left the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with what the team described as a left quad contusion. He had been hit by an 89 mph fastball from right-hander David Phelps one inning earlier, and eventually scored from second on a single.

– Mike Aviles had a rough day in the field, committing one fielding error and later catching his spike and falling down while fielding what would have been an inning-ending groundout that instead turned into an RBI single.

– The offense sputtered late. After erupting for nine runs in the first five innings (matching season highs in runs scored in both the first and second innings with two and three runs, respectively), the team went scoreless in the final four innings.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Felix Doubront was dominant for most of his third start of the 2012 season. He showed a tremendous pitch mix, with a 91-95 mph fastball, a cutter that sawed off opponents, a swing-and-miss changeup and a curveball that, while not located in the strike zone, had the effect of keeping the Yankees honest. Of the 18 outs he recorded, seven came via strikeout and nine came on groundballs.

Doubront has struck out six, seven and seven in his three starts this year, and he now leads the Red Sox pitching staff in both strikeouts (20) and ERA (3.94). The Sox should be 3-0 in his starts. Also noteworthy: the team has won games Doubront started against three AL East rivals, with his outings having come against the Blue Jays, Rays and Yankees. He has shut down or at least held each at bay.

David Ortiz is enjoying a remarkable late-career resurgence, in particular thanks to the fact that he is doing more damage than ever against left-handed pitchers. In the bottom of the third inning, he beat the shift with a single up the middle, improving to .500 (9-for-18) with a .526 OBP, .667 slugging mark and 1.193 OPS against southpaws this year. Ortiz ended up going 4-for-4 with a double and a walk, marking the second time this year that he has reached base four times in a game.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia entered the day with three hits. On Saturday, he had four.

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