David Ortiz homered twice to help the Red Sox survive a late collapse from Clay Buchholz and the bullpen Monday night as they defeated the Oakland Athletics 11-6.
Still looking for his first quality start of the year, Clay Buchholz struggled with inconsistency early on, but still managed to keep runs off the board for the most part. Having his best success when he stayed away from the fastball, Buchholz would see a run come across in the second when Nick Punto ignored Kurt Suzuki breaking for home as he tried to catch Daric Barton in the midst of a rundown.
Buchholz wouldn't allow another run for the next four innings, however, keeping the Athletics off the board while the Red Sox went to work on junkballer Tommy Milone. David Ortiz erased the Oakland lead in just five pitches, rocketing a solo shot into the bullpens before a series of singles and an error from Jemile Weeks brought three more in to score. Ortiz would come up to bat again in the third, leading off the inning with a walk and then scoring as Darnell McDonald made it 6-1 with a homer off the top of the Monster.
Ortiz would homer again in the bottom of the fifth, as the Sox blew the game open with five more runs, including a three-run shot from Mike Aviles into the Monster seats that made it 11-1. The game would get tense in a hurry, however, as Clay Buchholz struggled in the seventh, allowing a five-run rally capped off by Josh Reddick going deep to right for three. Junichi Tazawa was called into the game with little time to prepare in the pen, put two men on, and then induced a crucial pop-up...which Nick Punto proceeded to drop, loading the bases. Thankfully, Vicente Padilla would prove up to the task of saving Boston's bacon, striking out Daric Barton to end the frame.
Scott Atchison would quickly put the Sox back in danger by loading the bases with zero outs in the eighth, but struck out Coco Crisp and then turned the ball over to Franklin Morales. While Morales nearly allowed the rally to continue, giving up a soft line drive up the middle, Dustin Pedroia made a tremendous play to scoop up the ball, hurry to second, and fire a strike to first for the inning-ending double play. Alfredo Aceves pitched a relatively painless ninth, and the Red Sox went home winners.
The Amazing Ortiz: Coming into tonight's game, David Ortiz had a .444 OBP and .654 SLG against lefties, and a .444 OBP and .655 SLG against righties. With two homers and a walk against a lefty tonight, those first two numbers are now much improved, and Ortiz will end April with a .405 average, six homers, 20 RBI, and a 1.184 OPS.
It's been a good month.
Inconsistent Buchholz: In the third, fourth, and sixth, Buchholz seemed like his old self, inducing ground balls and throwing decent curveballs and changeups to get batters out. In the first, second, and fifth, he was giving away free passes and surrendering line drives--though he was lucky enough to have them find Marlon Byrd in center.
The implosion in the seventh, sadly, was not unforeseeable. And because of it, it's hard to take this as an encouraging outing. For proof of that, you need look no further than Buchholz himself, who was visibly distraught as he was pulled from the game, brushing past Bobby Valentine and his teammates with his head down as he retreated to the bullpen.
Nick Punto Serves No Purpose: Nick Punto made a good play and drew a walk--and still managed to have a horrible game. He was inattentive to allow the run to score during the rundown in the second, looked mostly overmatched at the plate while the rest of the team was dominating, and managed to drop a crucial pop-up that could have been huge. How much longer can the team afford to play this no-bat defensive replacement who has suddenly forgotten how to field consistently?
Bobby Valentine Lights Fires: Another day with a slow hook for Bobby V, who watches Clay Buchholz give up a hit, walk, and line drive out and still doesn't even get a reliever warming until he's surrendered another walk and allowed two runs to come in. Had Bobby Valentine been more prepared in the seventh and quicker with the hook, Buchholz might have something to build on here instead of just another disappointment. Add to that a curious decision to replace Vicente Padilla with Scott Atchison after five pitches and not to pinch hit Ryan Sweeney for Lars Anderson when Sweeney came in to play the field in the next inning, and it's just another in a series of terribly managed games by Bobby Valentine.