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Closing Time: Red Sox throw one away against Twins

05.09.13 at 10:16 pm ET

One of the underrated keys to the Red Sox‘ strong start was fundamentally sound defense. The team seemed to make virtually every play over the season’s first month, committing just 11 errors by position players in the month (including no more than one by any of the starting infielders) and permitting only five unearned runs. That contributed not just to an 18-8 record, but also to excellent run prevention, as the Sox gave up just 3.7 runs per contest.

Among many things that have gone wrong in early May, a dropoff in execution has played, at times, a prominent role. That was highlighted in the top of the sixth inning of the Sox’ game against the Twins on Thursday night. With the Sox leading, 2-1, John Lackey put runners on first and second with one out. He induced a hard comebacker from Trevor Plouffe, but instead of commencing a crisp 1-4-3 double play, he unleashed a throw that went five feet wide of the bag and into center field. Instead of an inning-ending twin-killing, the play permitted one run to score (knotting the game at 2-2) while putting runners on the corner.

The Sox nearly contained the damage at that point, when Shane Victorino sprinted down a soft liner to shallow right and made a perfect throw home that beat Justin Morneau to the plate. However, catcher David Ross whiffed on his sweep tag — another free out conferred upon Minnesota. Oswaldo Arcia then followed by launching a two-run homer just over Victorino and into the Red Sox bullpen.

If Lackey made his play, the Sox wouldn’t have given up any runs in the frame. If Ross made his tag, the Sox would have given up just one run. Instead, the Sox allowed four unearned runs to cross home. The result? A 5-3 loss that dropped the Sox to 3-6 in May, and 1-6 in their last seven contests.

The day continued what has been a rough start to May for the Sox. Sox position players have committed 10 errors already in nine games this month. With four unearned runs on Thursday night, the team has permitted seven this month — one more than they’d committed in all of April. They’ve allowed 5.4 runs per month.

A litany of factors have played into the team’s 3-6 record in the first nine contests of May, but undoubtedly execution and defense have been a part of that.

“Our guys work on their defense every single day. It’€™s not a matter of work. It’€™s a matter of execution,” manager John Farrell said prior to the game. “They’€™ve come in bunches. I think it might be more the leveling out of the game itself.”


‘€¢ David Ortiz went 0-for-5, making him hitless in 10 plate appearances over the last two games of the series. It is just the second time since the start of the 2012 season that Ortiz has failed to reach base in back-to-back games. He went 0-for-9 last May 22-23. Indeed, Thursday marked just the 11th time since the start of the 2012 season that Ortiz failed to reach base in a game. Indeed, Ortiz posted back to back games of 0-for-5 (or worse) for just the third time in his career, with the other two having come in 2004.

‘€¢ Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-4 with a walk, dropping his average to .263 (its lowest point since April 16) with a .321 OBP and .368 slugging mark. He did line a ball to the warning track in center. Still, he’s made little discernible offensive impact in recent days, having neither scored nor driven in a run in his last seven contests — matching his longest such streak in his major league career.

‘€¢ Catcher David Ross went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his return to the lineup.


‘€¢ Though Lackey spoiled it with one bad throw, the right-hander had tremendous stuff for much of the night. Working with a 90-94 mph fastball that was mostly at 91-93, both location and late life permitted him to beat the Twins with the pitch, making his sharp secondary stuff all the more effective. He pitched a season-high seven innings and matched a season-high by striking out eight while issuing just one walk. Lacked did give up the five runs (also a season-high), though just one was earned. On the year, he now has a 2.82 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.

‘€¢ Koji Uehara struck out the side in the eighth inning. He now has 20 strikeouts while yielding just two walks this year.

‘€¢ Shane Victorino had a strong all-around game. He went 2-for-5 with a single and, more notably, a hustle double, taking off aggressively for second on a two-out hit to right field. That hustle positioned him to score on Dustin Pedroia‘s RBI single one batter later. And, Victorino’s fine catch and tremendous throw from right field nearly got the Sox out of the game’s pivotal sixth-inning jam, but Ross’ missed tag of Morneau denied Victorino an assist.

‘€¢ Pedroia went 2-for-4 with a walk while driving in a run, continuing to show signs of heating up. After seeing his line for the year bottom out at .293/.393/.345 at the end of the Sox’ recent roadtrip, in four games at Fenway, he’s now hitting .450/.522/.650 in four games back at Fenway.

Despite his fine game, however, he was rung up on a questionable third strike call in the ninth when he represented the potential tying run at the plate.

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