|Closing Time: Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox bullpen trashed in brutal loss to Twins||08.04.12 at 10:36 pm ET|
The Red Sox’ ever-dwindling hopes of contention took a brutal hit on Saturday night, as the team gave away leads in the final two innings en route to a devastating 6-4 loss to the Twins.
The game started in immensely promising fashion for the Sox, as Clay Buchholz dominated for seven innings while allowing one unearned run. With the Sox leading 2-1, the bullpen was asked to deliver the final six outs. Its failure was spectacular.
Andrew Miller — brought in to face four straight left-handed hitters — had nothing. The lefty, pitching for the sixth time in eight days, issued a leadoff walk to Denard Span and followed that by permitting an infield single to Ben Revere. A walk to Joe Mauer loaded the bases, prompting manager Bobby Valentine to summon closer Alfredo Aceves, who promptly gave up a game-tying sacrifice fly before escaping the inning without further harm.
Yet the Sox proved undeterred, rallying for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth — with a solo homer launched by Pedro Ciriaco — only to see Aceves endure a meltdown in the top of the ninth. The Sox closer allowed four hits in the inning, culminating in a three-run, two-out, opposite-field blast into the Monster Seats by Mauer.
The Sox have now lost three straight to a 47-60 Twins team and four straight overall, dropping to two games below .500 and seeing greater distance open between them and the rest of the crowded wild card field.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
• Miller had a tough outing, as he did not record a single out while allowing a hit, a run and walking two batters. Miller had only walked a single batter in his previous 10 outings. Fatigue from extensive usage may have been a factor, as the lefty has worked in six games over the last eight days.
• Aceves, asked to record a six-out save, could not do so, permitting a game-tying sacrifice fly in the eighth and then blowing the opportunity for the win after the Red Sox rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. He’s given up two runs in as many games, and he’s now blown six saves in 28 opportunities.
• While Buchholz was having a lot of success with his pitches, his pickoff moves were another story. Buchholz received an error for throwing the ball past Gonzalez while trying to catch Justin Morneau leaning in the second inning, allowing him to move into scoring position. Buchholz did not get any better at the pickoff move though, as he repeated the same mistake in the top of the fifth with Jamey Carroll on first base.
Carroll came around to score when Kelly Shoppach threw the ball into Revere’s shoulder as Revere tried to beat out an infield single. Had Buchholz not made the initial error, Carroll would not have been able to score on the play.
Buchholz only has seven pickoffs in his six-year career, including one this season. The 27-year-old has three errors on the season thanks to the two he committed on Saturday, which is a career high.
• Shoppach had a tough game all around on Saturday, finishing 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and an error. The error came on the play in which he threw the ball off of Revere’s back, but he also made a few other miscues throughout the ballgame. When Revere tried to steal in the fifth inning, Shoppach tried to catch a pitch and throw out Revere at the same time, resulting in a pass ball and an easy steal. In the seventh inning, Shoppach could not handle a Bryan Dozier bunt and allowed him to beat out the throw for a single.
That said, Shoppach has been great with the pitching staff, as the team is 25-13 when he starts behind the plate as opposed to 29-39 when the team is 29-39 when Jarrod Saltalamacchia starts.
• The Red Sox had a particularly weak fifth inning in both aspects of the game. Boston committed two errors in the top half of the inning and allowed the Twins to score their first run. The Red Sox offense also did not answer, as the team had a particularly feeble bottom half of the fifth. Shoppach, Punto and Kalish were all sent back to the dugout on strikes by De Vries.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
• Ciriaco launched a pinch-hit home run over the Green Monster in the bottom of the eighth to give the Red Sox a short-lived 3-2 lead. It was his first home run of his career. The 26-year-old — a minor league free agent signed by the Red Sox this offseason — continues to be a revelation for the Red Sox, as he is now hitting .338 with an .814 OPS in 24 games.
• It was another strong outing for Buchholz, who continued to own the title of best Red Sox starter since the beginning of May. The 27-year-old did not allow an earned run on seven hits through seven innings while striking out three. However, thanks to a tough inning by Miller in the top of the eighth, he was left with his third no-decision in his past four starts — in which he has given up only four earned runs in 30 total innings (1.20 ERA).
Buchholz had a miserable beginning to the season, in which he had a 9.09 ERA and 10 home runs allowed through his first six outings. However, since then, the righty has a 3.43 ERA and nine home runs allowed in 13 starts, lowering his ERA to 4.48 on the season. He’s pitched at least six innings in each of his last 10 starts, the longest such streak of his career, a stretch in which he has a 2.21 ERA. He proved particularly adept at getting ground balls, recording 13 of his 21 outs through that vehicle, and inducing a pair of double plays. Buchholz is tied for the AL lead with 22 GIDPs induced this year.
• After Buchholz allowed runners to reach first and third with nobody out, the righty shut the door on a chance at any runs with a help from his defense. Buchholz struck out Darin Mastroianni to get one out, and then Nick Punto made a fantastic diving catch to prevent a possible RBI double. Buchholz walked Alexi Casilla to load the bases, but Adrian Gonzalez made a nice play on a hard-hit ground ball before tossing it back to Buchholz to end the inning.
• Don’t look now, but Carl Crawford is impacting the ball in a fashion unlike any since his arrival in Boston. The left fielder clobbered a double high off the Green Monster to drive in Ryan Kalish and give the Red Sox an early lead. After not hitting a single double in his first 15 games of the season, Crawford has now hit two in as many games. Crawford also hit a home run Friday, and he has two doubles, a triple and three homers in his last eight contests.
• Mike Aviles hit a towering home run in the second inning, blasting a De Vries changeup over the Green Monster for his 11th home run of the season. Aviles had only hit one home run in his previous 32 games after hitting five in the first month of the season. The 11 home runs on the season represents a new career-high for Aviles, whose previous single-season best was 10 homers in his rookie season with the Royals in 2008.
- Red Sox sign 1st-round pick Trey Ball (UPDATED)
- Cup of Coffee: Shaw, Haeger help Sea Dogs earn split
- Players of the Week, June 10-16: Keury De La Cruz and Anthony Ranaudo
- Red Sox reportedly sign 12th-rounder Jake Drehoff
- Wendelken added to South Atlantic League All-Stars
- Red Sox reportedly sign Bryan Hudson, Jantzen Witte
- Cup of Coffee: Spinners open season with 15-strikeout gem
- SoxProspects Video of the Week: A-Ball hitters
- SoxProspects.com Podcast #39.1: Mellen's Excellent Adventure
- 2013 Annual Drive - Help Keep SoxProspects Free!