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Closing Time: Angels tread all over Red Sox bullpen in 11-inning, walkoff win

07.07.13 at 2:34 am ET
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So, about the bullpen…

On a night when the Red Sox relief corps received one of its more promising signs in some time (an excellent outing from Andrew Bailey), the bullpen suffered a two-fold hit. The first came in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Andrew Miller crumpled to the ground with what the Sox described as a left foot injury. That, in turn, rearranged the Sox’ bullpen and hastened the entry of Bailey into the bullpen, thus setting the stage for a disastrous ninth.

The Sox possessed a 7-3 lead and seemed to be on an easy path to their sixth straight win. Instead, reliever Alex Wilson permitted three Angels to reach — two on singles, one on a hit by pitch — thus requiring closer Koji Uehara to enter with the tying run at the plate in the form of Albert Pujols. The Angels mounted an improbable four-run rally, with Pujols and Hamilton both expanding the strike zone to drive in a total of three runs on singles. Then, with two outs and the Sox clinging to a 7-6 lead, Howie Kendrick grounded to third in what should have represented the final play of the game in the Sox’ victory.

But recent call-up Brandon Snyder instead sailed his throw to second for a fielder’s choice error. The miscue tied the game, 7-7.

Uehara recovered, but that only prolonged the agony for the Sox. After Craig Breslow submitted a scoreless 10th, Josh Hamilton launched a two-run homer off Breslow in the 11th as the Angels claimed a 9-7, walkoff victory.

The Sox — who have an American League-low 17 saves — now rank second in the AL with 14 blown saves, and their 55 percent save conversion rate is likewise the second-worst in the AL. The loss snapped the Sox’ five-game winning streak.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Andrew Miller fell to the ground and grabbed at his lower left leg on his way to back up home plate after dodging awkwardly out of the way of a comebacker in the bottom of the seventh, departing the contest with what the team described as a left foot injury. According to Jamie Erdahl of NESN (via twitter), Miller required considerable assistance to get to the clubhouse. Obviously, any missed time for a pitcher with a 2.64 ERA and 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings would represent a considerable loss.

Alex Wilson, asked to close out a four-run, ninth-inning lead (a non-save situation), instead loaded the bases by permitting a pair of hits and hitting a batter (Mike Trout). The consequences were several-fold: Wilson’s brief outing resulted in both Uehara and Craig Breslow entering the game, thus erasing the opportunity to rest the bullpen. And, of course, it set in motion the Angels’ game-winning rally.

Mike Napoli went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He leads the majors with 13 games of three or more strikeouts this year. He did walk twice.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

— In perhaps the most important development of the game for the Sox, Andrew Bailey continued to show signs of emerging from his struggles, recording the most important outs of the game — a one-out, double-play grounder from Mike Trout, at a time when the dazzling outfielder represented the game-tying run in the seventh — and then returning to the mound for a scoreless eighth that included a pair of punchouts (Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo). Bailey now has six punchouts in his last 3 1/3 innings spanning three appearances.

Ryan Dempster delivered 6 1/3 innings in which he permitted three runs (two earned). Dempster was touched for seven hits (including two more homers, bringing his season-long yield up to 19), but limited the damage done by the Halos while striking out four and walking two. He now has a solid 4.04 ERA on the year, and he’s on a roll in which he’s given up three or fewer earned runs in eight straight starts. Over that span, he has a 3.33 ERA while averaging just over 6 1/3 innings per start.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia continues to deliver considerable offensive impact. The catcher went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, driving in two, and walked twice. He now has five games with multiple extra-base hits this year. Since May 30, he’s hitting .288/.351/.481.

— Outfielder Daniel Nava continued his recent surge, going 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles to raise his average to .295 with an .832 OPS. Since a 2-for-25 slide in mid-June, Nava has brought his numbers back up to rank among the top performers among American League outfielders. Though he’s walked rarely in the last two weeks (once in 10 games), he’s collecting hits in bunches, with six multi-hit games in his last 10 contests.

Dustin Pedroia continued his quietly exceptional stretch, collecting an eighth multi-hit game in his last 12 contests by going 2-for-5 with a walk. Over his last dozen games, he’s hitting .447/.509/.638.

Shane Victorino continued to deliver a multidimensional impact in his first year with the Sox. He went 1-for-5 with a triple (his third extra-base hit in four games after collecting a modest 14 in his first 55 contests) and scored a run, while also unleashing a tremendous throw to third base to cut down J.B. Shuck on his attempt to advance from second to third on a flyout to right in the fifth. It was Victorino’s sixth outfield assist of the year.

Despite injuries that have limited him to 59 games thus far this year, Victorino continues to make a strong case for Gold Glove consideration. His case is bolstered by advanced statistical analysis: the John Dewan runs saved system suggests Victorino has saved 11 runs on defense, most by any AL outfielder; Fangraphs.com has Victorino with a 10.8 UZR, a mark that also tops all AL outfielders.

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