After a heartbreaker on Thursday and a disaster Saturday, the Red Sox are still looking for their first win of the year. They'll turn to Clay Buchholz and an unusual lineup Sunday in the pursuit of that elusive victory.
If there was a start the Red Sox needed to allay the fears built by their terrible September collapse and a quiet offseason, they have gone in the exact opposite direction. Already the bullpen is in question, Josh Beckett is looking like he's ready to fall back to his even-year difficulties, and the lineup has two runs in as many games.
It's not that surprising, then, that Bobby Valentine opted for a shakeup in the order, but the way he's gone about it? That's another story. Nick Punto batting first goes against baseball wisdom both conventional and not, while both Kelly Shoppach and Darnell McDonald are both playing against a righty when their value comes almost exclusively against lefties. It doesn't help that Jarrod Saltalamacchia was actually swinging a pretty hot bat.
Of course, on any given day the Pirates can beat the World Series champions, so there's reason for hope yet. We'll keep you up-to-date as the Sox aim for 1-2.
Red Sox 12, Tigers 10, Mid 11th - Once again, the Sox are just a few outs from victory, as a hit-and-run and a bloop helped the weakest part of the Red Sox' lineup score what could be the biggest run of the game.
The inning started with a lot of promise for the Sox, as Cody Ross drew a leadoff walk and moved to third when a hit-and-run opened a hole in the infield for Mike Aviles.
Bobby Valentine would make the move to get Kelly Shoppach out of the game against the right-handed Joaquin Benoit for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The move made sense, but it did not provide dividends, as Salty took some bad swings and went down with a strikeout. That left it up to Nick Punto to get the run in while it could still be done with an out, and for a while, it didn't look like he would. Falling behind 1-2, Punto would work the count even and then come up with one big bloop. Sometimes, however, it's better to be lucky than good, and with the ball falling in front of Ryan Raburn in left for an RBI single, this was one of those cases.
The Sox wouldn't stop there, however. While Jacoby Ellsbury just missed extra bases and ended up striking out, Dustin Pedroia managed to find the outfield for an RBI single to make it 12-10. Unforunately, Adrian Gonzalez couldn't extend the lead, but for now the Sox will take what they can get.
Red Sox 10, Tigers 10, End 10th - Franklin Morales has kept the Sox alive for another inning, working around a one-out single with strikeouts to Jhonny Peralta and Austin Jackson.
The problem is that the Sox will now face Brennan Boesch, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder in the eleventh. Not an exciting prospect.
Red Sox 10, TIgers 10, Mid 10th - The Red Sox managed a leadoff walk off the bat of Dustin Pedroia, but could muster nothing else. Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz both got underneath pitches for fly ball outs, and Darnell McDonald struck out to end the inning.
Even if the Sox get through the bottom half of the inning, they'll have the worst part of their lineup for the eleventh while the Tigers will have the top of the order.
Red Sox 10, Tigers 10, End 9th - It's hard to believe it, but the Red Sox and Tigers...are tied.
Snatching (possible) defeat from the jaws of victory, Alfredo Aceves came out for his first save situation and completely blew it. Austin Jackson lined a single into the outfield, Brennan Boesch ran out an infield single, and then with his first pitch to Miguel Cabrera, Aceves served up a middle-in fastball that Cabrera couldn't help but take out of the park.
Franklin Morales managed to finish up the inning to send the two teams into the tenth, but this is a pretty crushing blow to the Red Sox. With Aceves still sporting an undefined ERA through two appearances--which is to say, having recorded not a single out--it's hard to imagine he's got much time left as the closer.
Red Sox 10, Tigers 7, Mid 9th - The Sox just added the flukiest of all runs in the ninth inning with two pop-ups and an infield single.
Darnell McDonald and Cody Ross (in for Ryan Sweeney) each reached when their pop-ups dropped in for hits. While McDonald's was routine, Ross' was less so, with both Prince Fielder and Ryan Raburn chasing it into foul territory before it came back across the line for the single.
With Mike Aviles at the plate, Bobby Valentine made the questionable decision to call for a sacrifice bunt. Aviles, for the record, has a .812 OPS in his career against lefties, and Kelly Shoppach and Nick Punto were scheduled to follow him. With Jim Leyland calling for a righty against Shoppach, the backup catcher predictably could not produce. Nick Punto, however, would come through, with his ground ball winding up just deep enough in the hole for Jhonny Peralta's throw to come late to first.
The Red Sox are just three outs away from their first win, but they'll have to come against the top of the lineup.
Red Sox 9, Tigers 7, End 8th - Vicente Padilla wasn't done, apparently, and came back out for three more outs. The first was of some note, as Dustin Pedroia went diving to the ground to snag a hard-hit grounder that looked destined for the outfield. Other than that, however, it was more easy stuff for Padilla, who has now thrown 51 pitches in the game.
Red Sox 9, Tigers 7, Mid 8th - The Sox waste an opportunity thanks to some bad baserunning by Nick Punto. After the "spark plug" got on base for the first time with a leadoff double and moved to third on a ground ball, he was caught in a rundown when Pedroia grounded to third. It would prove a costly mistake when the first pitch to Adrian Gonzalez from Phil Coke went behind Gonzalez to the backstop.
Meanwhile, Warnings have been handed out when Coke's second pitch caught Adrian square in the back. The only reason I can see that he's not being tossed from the game is because it makes so little sense to be throwing at Adrian. The Tigers have dominated the series through the first two games, Gonzalez didn't appear to show up the Tigers with his homer, and it's not like he was piling on--it's a close game, and his shot gave the Sox the lead.
Hopefully the Sox won't retaliate in a situation like this.
Red Sox 9, Tigers 7, End 7th - Vicente Padilla may have just calmed a thousand beat writers today, finishing his third scoreless inning against the strongest part of the Tigers' offense despite having Nick Punto whiff on a ground ball off the bat of Delmon Young. Prince Fielder gave one a ride, but couldn't even get it to the track, while Miguel Cabrera grounded out nice-and-easy for the first out.
The Sox are six outs away from their first win of the season.
Red Sox 9, Tigers 7, Mid 7th - A very quick inning for the bottom of the Red Sox' lineup, with Ryan Sweeney, Mike Aviles, and Kelly Shoppach going down in order. That sets up the top for the next inning, which is big because--oh, no, wait, Nick Punto. Never mind.
Red Sox 9, Tigers 7, End 6th - Vicente Padilla keeps the Red Sox on top for another inning, and did so in impressive fashion. After allowing a leadoff baserunner, Padilla would strike out Ryan Raburn on three pitches, get Austin Jackson swinging on a 2-2 sinker, and then sit down Brennan Boesch on a slider. The Sox will face the biggest challenge in the seventh, however, as Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder step to the plate.
Red Sox 9, Tigers 7, Mid 6th - It had been a long time since Adrian Gonzalez last took a ball out of the park--he went all spring without a homer, after all. But the wait is finally over for the big-hitting first baseman, who welcomed Daniel Schlereth to the game by taking his first pitch--a high-inside fastball--and depositing it well into the stands in center field. With Jacoby Ellsbury having reached to start the inning, the long ball went for two runs, giving the Sox a 9-7 lead.
The Tigers can't seem to avoid hard contact in general right now, as even the outs from Dustin Pedroia and Darnell McDonald threatened to do some damage. Hopefully Vicente Padilla can keep things held down in the sixth so the Sox have the chance to build in the seventh.
Red Sox 7, Tigers 7, End 5th - Vicente Padilla brings some stability to the Red Sox in relief of Clay Buchholz. Three batters up, three batters down, and one by way of the strikeout. Padilla has even flashed the Eephus, which is a sure sign of great things happening.
Red Sox 7, Tigers 7, Mid 5th - Nick Punto is now 0-for-3 with the shallowest sacrifice fly in baseball history. Spark plug! That is all.
Red Sox 7, Tigers 7, End 4th - Well, so much for the lead. Clay Buchholz once again found himself in early trouble, and could not escape the inning before allowing the Tigers to tie things up.
All things considered, it could have been worse, given that Ryan Raburn and Austin Jackson led the inning off with nearly identical line drives to left field on fastballs. Brennan Boesch would bring the Tigers within a run on a single of his own, bringing up Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder with no outs and two men on.
You can see how it could have been worse?
Luckily, Clay Was able to avoid damage from the two most difficult outs in the lineup. Cabrera would ground into a double play, the Sox opting to take two outs as they let the run score from third, and Prince Fielder would follow suit with an easy ground ball to short to end the inning.
Red Sox 7, Tigers 5, Mid 4th - The bullpen provides a calming influence for the Tigers, holding the Red Sox to a quiet fourth after a very loud third. Only David Ortiz was able to reach base, going to the opposite field for a single before Darnell McDonald flew out and Ryan Sweeney grounded out to end the inning.
Red Sox 7, Tigers 5, End 3rd - The Red Sox...held the lead?
The Red Sox held the lead!
It wasn't a completely clean inning from Clay Buchholz, who walked Alex Avila and seems to be laboring through the game in general. But with a couple ground outs and a fly ball, he managed to escape the third without allowing any runs in for the first time today, and is still in the game come the fourth.
That's more than Scherzer can claim.
Red Sox 7, Tigers 5, Mid 3rd - The Red Sox...have a lead?
The Red Sox have a lead!
The Sox are on top for the first time this season, nickle-and-diming their way through the lineup for five runs off of Max Scherzer in the third. Adrian Gonzalez led off with a ringing single on a high fastball to right field, and then motored home as David Ortiz doubled all the way to the wall on the second pitch he saw.
After Darnell McDonald struck out, Ryan Sweeney and Mike Aviles would keep the rally chugging with a single up the middle and into left respectively, scoring David Ortiz in the process. Despite falling behind 0-2, Kelly Shoppach would reach too, as Scherzer again plunked the #9 hitter, loading the bases for Nick Punto.
It's hard to really say that Bobby Valentine's mad gambit has paid off yet, as Punto proceeded to pop the ball into shallow center, but Ryan Sweeney did manage to make something out of it, racing home and scoring to tie the game as Alex Avila failed to handle Austin Jackson's throw in the dirt. Another run would score when Max Scherzer was called for a balk, but it likely didn't matter, as Jacoby Ellsbury worked a 2-2 count and then shot a fastball past Jhonny Peralta and into left for an RBI single, chasing Scherzer from the game with seven runs to his name.
Red Sox 2, Tigers 5, End 2nd - Just when the Red Sox showed some life, Clay can't keep the Tigers from pulling away again.
Leading off the inning with a hit batsman and an infield single, Buchholz needed everything to go right to avoid damage in the inning. Instead, he had the lead runner scamper to third when Aviles tried to fire to first on the single, making Miguel Cabrera's fly ball enough to bring the run home, even when Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving grab to save another hit.
Red Sox 2, Tigers 4, Mid 2nd - The Red Sox are back in the game, but ultimately let a chance to possibly go ahead go by the wayside in the second.
David Ortiz got the Sox off to a good start by beating the shift with a hard hit ground ball off of Max Scherzer and Darnell McDonald kept things going by drawing a six pitch walk. One of the Sox' hottest bats in Ryan Sweeney failed to come through, popping out into foul territory, but Mike Aviles finally managed to find his stride again and put the Sox on the board after ten straight scoreless innings with a two-run double to right field.
The Sox would end up loading the bases as Kelly Shoppach caught a glancing blow on his elbow and Jacoby Ellsbury worked a tough walk, but even as Scherzer was throwing pitches well out of the zone and testing Alex Avila behind the plate, Dustin Pedroia could not cash in, swinging underneath a high fastball and then through one that was begging to be hit, striking out to end the threat.
Red Sox 0, Tigers 4, End 1st - Once again, the Sox are off to a very bad start, as Clay Buchholz has helped the Tigers to a large early lead.
While Buchholz would get ahead of Austin Jackson in his first regular season at bat since his back injury knocked him out half way through 2011, he left an 0-2 changeup in the zone, giving Jackson a chance to line a double down the third base line. Buchholz would battle back from a 3-0 count to get Brennan Boesch out, but a throw to third just missed catching Jackson as he tagged up, and Miguel Cabrera quickly made it 1-0 with a ground ball single of his own.
Buchholz would end up loading the bases for Jhonny Peralta on another ground ball single to Prince fielder and a walk to Alex Avila. Getting ahead 0-2, it seemed like the Sox might escape with limited injury, but another bad offspeed pitch stayed up over the plate, and Peralta punished him for it. Jacoby Ellsbury managed to put his glove on the long fly ball, but had it bounce out as three Tigers raced home, leaving Detroit up 4-0.
Red Sox 0, Tigers 0, Mid 1st - The Sox make it ten straight scoreless innings with a quiet first. Nick Punto failed in his role as the "spark plug" by lining softly to shortstop for the first out of the game, and Jacoby Ellsbury swung through a 2-2 fastball for the second.
Dustin Pedroia would end up reaching first when he reached out and knocked an 0-2 slider into left field for a base hit, but Adrian Gonzalez couldn't cash in, taking a big swing that just got a bit too far underneath an 0-1 fastball for a routine fly ball to left.