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Closing Time: Stephen Drew delivers walkoff victory for Red Sox

05.07.13 at 12:01 am ET
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Stephen Drew had his third career walkoff hit on Monday night. (AP)

Stephen Drew punctuated his best game with the Red Sox with a two-out, walkoff double in the bottom of the 11th inning that drove home catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia from second base to give the Sox a 6-5 victory. It was Drew’s fourth hit of the game, his 13th career game with four or more hits, and his third career walkoff hit (last on April 27, 2011).

Drew provided most of the Red Sox offense in helping the team to snap its three-game losing streak. He delivered a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning and then later adding a game-tying solo homer into the right field grandstand in the bottom of the seventh inning. He also added a one-out single in a tie game in the ninth. The homer pushed Drew’s average above .200 for the first time in his Red Sox career.

Since starting the year in a 2-for-23 rut, Drew — aside from a surprisingly high strikeout rate — has been more or less what the Sox hoped he might be when they signed him. He’s delivered steady, solid defense at short while offering on-base ability and some pop. In his last 14 games, Drew is now hitting .292/.364/.521 with a pair of homers.

“He’s been swinging the bat much better of late,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “A big night for him, a key hit, obviously to walk it off. The home run gets us another run closer earlier in the ballgame. The one thing we’ve talked to Stephen about is that over this past 10 days or so it’s almost like the end of spring training for him with the number of at-bats he’s starting to compile and you see his timing getting better and better. a solid night at the plate for him.”

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

• Though he’d gotten on base at an excellent rate for most of the year, Dustin Pedroia was expected to be more than a table-setter in the No. 3 spot in the Red Sox lineup. But even with a .294 average and .396 OBP, he entered Monday with a hollow .345 slugging percentage. The Sox were the only team in the majors without a homer from the third spot in their lineup.

That’s now changed. With the Twins and Red Sox tied, 4-4, in the bottom of the eighth, Pedroia punctuated a three-hit night with an exceptional at-bat, fouling off four pitches with two strikes before launching the 10th offering from right-hander Casey Fien — a full-count changeup — off the base of the light tower in left field. It was Pedroia’s first homer in 214 plate appearances (the longest drought of his career) dating to last September 11.

“It was awesome. I think him and [Shane Victorino] had a little in-house bet going,” said Sox starter Clay Buchholz, noting that neither Pedroia nor Victorino had homered in 2013 prior to Monday. “I think [Pedroia] was a little mad, so he had to hit one just to even up with him.”

Pedroia’s homer came four innings after Victorino’s.

For his part, Pedroia said that he’d experienced little anxiety about his homer drought.

“I’m not a home run hitter,” he said. “We have 103 games left. We stick with the process around here. That’s what good teams do. We’re going to do that.”

And regarding those who had taken note of his absence of homers?

“They aren’t saying that anymore, are they?” he noted.

Clayton Mortensen, pressed into duty for a second straight day (he’d taken the loss for the Red Sox by allowing a ninth-inning run to the Rangers on Sunday) when closer Joel Hanrahan left the game with an injury, turned in a tremendous relief performance. He logged 2 1/3 shutout innings, making 44 pitches (26 strikes) while working around a hit and two walks.

“It always sends a little knot in your stomach when you see something like that. Something like that happens, the whole bullpen goes, ‘Someone’s got to step up and take on the responsibility now.’ I just happened to be that guy tonight,” said Mortensen. “A situation like that, you come in, tie ballgame in the ninth inning, more than likely, I figure I’m going to go until they tell me otherwise. You’ve got to keep that mindset — ‘Still got to go, still go to go, still got to go.’ You’ve got to find energy somewhere, find energy to compete.”

Given the fact that he’d pitched on Friday (28 pitches) and Sunday (19 pitches), then had to get on the long flight from Texas to Boston, how’d he feel?

“I felt great, actually — surprisingly,” said Mortensen. “You get in the moment, and you find it somewhere. You start mentally talking yourself up. You find it somewhere. You’ve got to.”

Shane Victorino jumped on a 3-2 slider from Vance Worley, lining a homer inside the Pesky Pole for his first homer as a Red Sox. He hadn’t gone deep against a right-handed pitcher since homering against Jeff Karstens last Aug. 13. However, in contrast to both 2012 and his career, Victorino has posted more impressive numbers against righties than lefties this year, a trend that continued on Monday against Worley and the Twins. Victorino was 3-for-3 with the homer and a pair of singles against his former Phillies teammate, and finished the game 3-for-5 (all against righties).  Victorino now is hitting .328 with a .782 OPS against righties, with marks of .231/.580 against righties. His three hits matched a season high (achieved twice previously).

• In their first game of the year with two left-handers in their bullpen, the Sox got solid relief work from both of their southpaws. Andrew Miller inherited a two-on, one-out situation in the seventh and punched out left-handers Justin Morneau and Chris Parmalee on sliders. Then, making his 2013 debut in the top of the eighth inning, Craig Breslow sailed through a 1-2-3 inning in which he threw 10-of-12 pitches for strikes, got one swing and miss each on his cutter and fastball and commanded a fastball that he employed at 87-90 mph.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Entrusted with a one-run lead in the ninth, Joel Hanrahan could not close out his first save since Andrew Bailey landed on the DL. Instead, he gave up a colossal solo homer on a 96 mph fastball to Brian Dozier. It was the fourth homer given up by Hanrahan this year — four times the number of homers he allowed during his 2011 season, and half as many homers as he gave up in 2012.

Shortly after the homer, Hanrahan suffered what manager John Farrell called a right forearm strain that forced him out of the game after a walk to Josh Willingham. He was visited on the mound by a trainer and manager John Farrell. He’ll be re-evaluated (and undergo an MRI) on Tuesday.

“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Hanrahan said of the pain in his forearm. More on the injury here.

• Whether it was the controversy that served as a prelude to the game or simply represented an inevitable return to earth for a night following his meteoric start to the year, Clay Buchholz turned in his worst outing of the season.

After five days of controversy and questions surrounding whether or not he was employing a foreign substance on his left forearm, Buchholz did not shy from applying rosin to the area prior to the start of every inning. He either rubbed his index and middle finger across the rosin-laden area or grabbed it with the entirely of his right hand prior to 11 pitches in the first inning.

It didn’t seem to help. Buchholz found himself swimming upstream immediately in a first inning in which he needed 36 pitches — the third-highest first-inning pitch total of his career, and the most he’d needed since throwing 44 on April 17, 2010. By the time the dust had settled, Buchholz had permitted two runs on three hits (two doubles) and two walks, matching his season-high in runs permitted in any game this year before he’d recorded his third out.

Buchholz settled, at one point enjoying a dominant stretch in which he retired nine straight (with seven strikeouts worked into the mix), before getting touched for single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. He limited the damage and, somewhat miraculously given his high pitch count in the first, managed to navigate through six innings, but his six innings of work represented a season low while his four runs (all earned) were a season high, as were the 115 pitches he required to get through the contest.

Even so, Buchholz said that Rosin-gate did not contribute to his struggles.

“I did the same thing that I’ve done all seven starts this year. It’s not anywhere in my head,” said Buchholz. “Took a couple days afterwards, hearing people talk about it, it was a little different because that was the last thing that I thought would be said about me but it comes — when someone is doing good, either a hitter or pitcher, a hitter is doing something that is out of the ordinary as far as really good, everybody thinks they’re taking steroids or doing something and you have to be putting something on the balls.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out with runners in scoring position twice. Saltalamacchia is now hitless in his last eight plate appearances with runners in scoring position. His second strikeout on Monday came while batting right-handed against Duensing; Saltalamacchia is hitless in his last 12 plate appearances while hitting right-handed with runners in scoring position, with his last hit in such situations coming last June 9.

However, he ended up recovering to go 2-for-4 with a double and walk. He legged out a key infield single in the 11th to instigate the rally that ultimately led to Drew’s walkoff.

• While David Ortiz lined a double to right in his fourth plate appearance to extend his hitting streak to 26 games, he had a couple of costly plate appearances on a night where he went 1-for-4 while grounding into a pair of double plays. Most notably, he grounded into a 3-6-3 double play against Twins left-handed reliever Brian Duensing with two on and no outs in the sixth inning, at a time when the Sox trailed, 4-2 — a twin-killing that proved particularly costly since it was followed by an RBI single by Mike Napoli, a wild pitch and a walk by Daniel Nava. The game marked the ninth time in Ortiz’s career — and the first since 2010 — that he grounded into multiple double plays in the same game.

Will Middlebrooks‘ struggles continued, as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts before dumping an 11th-inning single into left field for his lone hit. In his second whiff, Middlebrooks was ahead in the count 3-0 before swinging through three straight fastballs.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, joel hanrahan, Stephen Drew
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