|Closing time: Bottom of the lineup powers Sox back to .500||05.23.12 at 4:06 pm ET|
For the fourth time this season the Red Sox are at .500, as their 6-5 win over the Orioles Wednesday improved their record to 22-22. They have yet to have a winning record this season, but they will have their chance to finally go above .500 when when they return home to face the Rays at Fenway on Friday.
All in all, it was the bottom third of the lineup who did the most damage for the Sox on Wednesday. Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik (who was making his first big league start since 2010) and Kelly Shoppach all homered for Boston, and the trio accounted for four of the team’s five RBI on the day. The other RBI came from the No. 6 batter in Will Middlebrooks.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Chris Davis, but the Sox tied it in the top of the second when Podsednik grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. Nick Johnson hit the first of two homers on the day by sending an offering from Daniel Bard over the right field fence, but Middlebrooks’ double to left in the top of the third tied it once again.
Nava gave the Sox a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning with his second homer of the season, and Shoppach made it 5-2 with a two-run homer off Luis Ayala that scored Podsednik. Johnson would make it a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth by blasting his second homer of the game — this time a two-run shot off Andrew Miller — but the Sox were able to hold onto the lead and withstand an eighth-inning rally from the Orioles thanks to solid relief work from Rich Hill and Podsednik’s homer. Though Vicente Padilla stumbled in the eighth inning and allowed a run to make it a one-run game, Alfredo Aceves was able to come in and record the four-out save.
Bard tossed 5 1/3 innings for the Red Sox, earning the win on a day in which he allowed five hits and two earned runs. He walked four and struck out two while also hitting a batter and allowing the solo shot to Johnson. The Sox got to Baltimore starter Jake Arrieta for eight hits and four runs (all earned). Arrieta walked three and stuck out two in addition to allowing Nava’s homer.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
- Hill was lights-out in his brief appearance Wednesday. The Milton native came in to begin the bottom of the seventh inning and struck out both Luis Exposito (swinging) and Xavier Avery (looking) before being lifted in favor of Vicente Padilla. While Hill certainly looked sharp enough to face Robert Andino, Padilla was able to pick up where Hill left off by striking Andino out looking. The eighth inning was a different story for Padilla though, as he walked Nick Markakis and allowed a double to Adam Jones before being chased from the game by a Wilson Betemit sacrifice fly that could have done much more damage (see below).
- While Podsednik’s day didn’t get off to the best start, it ended up being a very good one for the veteran outfielder. Podsednik’s second at-bat as a member of the Red Sox had the potential for a big payoff, as he came to the plate with nobody out and the bases loaded in the second inning. Unfortunately for the Sox, Podsednik grounded into a double play that scored Kevin Youkilis but served as a wasted opportunity, as it would be the Sox’ only run of the inning.
Podsednik, who also had a sacrifice bunt in the game, did pick up his first hit of his Red Sox career when he lined one into right field with two down in the top of the sixth inning. He ended up scoring on Shoppach’s two-run homer, but the highlight of the day for the 36-year-old came when he hit a breaking ball from Darren O’Day to right field for a solo homer.
- As Alex Speier noted on twitter, Nava now has his first multi-homer season of his career. His solo shot to right to give the Sox a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth was his second dinger of the season and third of his major league career. Nava did not homer again in the 2010 season after blasting a grand slam in his first major-league at-bat.
- If there was concern about how Adrian Gonzalez could field the right field position, he took another step toward silencing those concerns in the bottom of the fourth inning. Gonzalez made a nice catch on a foul ball hit by Davis, pulling off the backhanded grab just a couple of feet before running into the wall in foul territory.
Gonzalez’ catch wouldn’t be the most critical to come in right field Wednesday, however. Che-Hsuan Lin, who came in previously as a pinch-runner for Youkilis an was moved to right field, saved the Red Sox’ bacon in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out and runners on second and third, Lin made diving catch on a ball hit by Wilson Betemit. While the play scored Markakis, it forced Jones to stay put at second. Had the ball fallen in, Jones likely would have scored and tied the game.
- After Shoppach was unable to throw out Xavier Avery stealing second with a throw that bounced in the bottom of the second inning, Bard was able to get Avery on the same at-bat. Bard spotted Avery breaking for third and lobbed the ball to Youkilis, who tagged the baserunner on the head to end the inning.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
- The season-long walkathon for Bard continued, as he walked four Orioles in five innings on Wednesday. He now has 29 walks on the season compared to 28 strikeouts. Bard took over the team lead from Clay Buchholz (27 walks) in free passes Wednesday. In addition to walking four batters, Bard also hit Ryan Flaherty in the bottom of the second inning following Johnson’s homer. His lone strikeout of the game came in the bottom of the fifth inning, when he got Andino with an 0-2 breaking ball. He also struck out Jones, the final batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth inning.
- David Ortiz cost himself a base hit in the top of the third inning by not running hard out of the batter’s box. With nobody out and Dustin Pedroia on second inning, Ortiz grounded one into shallow right field that Flaherty, playing second base in the shift, could only knock down. Because Ortiz didn’t turn the jets on in time, Flaherty was still able to recover and throw him out at first. Ortiz went 0-for-5 with a strikeout on the day.
- Youkilis was thrown out at the plate to end the third inning after Middlebrooks lined a double into left field. The hit drove in Dustin Pedroia, but Youkilis, who was coming from first base, slowed up as he turned the corner from third base. He picked up the pace when he finally realized that third base coach Jerry Royster had been waving him home the whole way, but it was an easy play for Avery, whose throw made it Exposito well in advance of Youkilis.
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