The Red Sox and Athletics are set to kick off their three-game series in Fenway Park, as Clay Buchholz tries to get his season turned 'round against Tommy Milone and an unimpressive Oakland lineup.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox aren't exactly looking their best either right about now. Kevin Youkilis is out for the second straight game, leaving a back-four of Kelly Shoppach, Darnell McDonald, Marlon Byrd, and Nick Punto. Given the lefty on the mound it's not quite as bad as it looks, but it's not pretty, either.
Athletics 6, Red Sox 11, Final -- Alfredo Aceves gives up a Fenway double, but strikes out the first two batters he faces and gets a pop-up for the final out of a stressful game.
Athletics 6, Red Sox 11, End 8th -- One inning after saving the Sox some runs, Dustin Pedroia tries to get them scoring some more, doubling off the wall in center with two outs. After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez, however, Lars Anderson pops out to end the threat.
Athletics 6, Red Sox 11, Mid 8th -- Dustin Pedroia!
Let me start again, and just talk a bit about this bullpen. It's a bad bullpen, with a lot of pieces that are virtually interchangeable as "mediocre guy who can maybe get some outs." Vicente Padilla and Scott Atchison are perhaps the clearest examples of this. They're neither of them great pitchers, but they can both throw a fair few innings, and are the sort of guy you're just hoping not to hit a bad day with. Because if you do, then God help you.
So why when Vicente Padilla just picked up a clutch strikeout to end the seventh on five pitches is he instantly replaced by Scott Atchison to start the eighth? All Bobby Valentine is doing there is to eliminate one of his chances to hit a pitcher who is currently feeling it, and can actually get outs. He's thinning the bullpen.
So Scott Atchison comes on and loads the bases with zero outs, and the Sox have scant few options left because they've needlessly used them up pitching to just the one batter.
Luckily, Atchison manages to record an out, setting up Franklin Morales against a lefty in Josh Reddick. Morales gets ahead 0-2, works a long at bat to get the count full, and then puts the ball on a line that seems destined to end in center field.
That's how we get back to Dustin Pedroia. Sorry, make that Dustin Pedroia! Reacting quickly, Pedroia managed to scoop up the ball on one hop, maintain his momentum to second, and then turn and fire a strike to first for the inning-ending double play. You won't see much better than that from any second baseman in the game.
Athletics 6, Red Sox 11, End 7th -- A decent start to the inning with a walk for Kelly Shoppach ends on a sour note with Darnell McDonald flying out and Marlon Byrd grounding into a double play.
Athletics 6, Red Sox 11, Mid 7th -- Surprise of surprises, Clay Buchholz has imploded, Bobby Valentine was late with the hook, and Nick Punto almost pressed the self destruct button on this whole mess.
Staying true to his on-off form of the night, Clay Buchholz was decidedly off in the seventh inning. It started innocently enough, with a ground ball being placed perfectly for a single just past Mike Aviles. The next plate appearance was a bit more ominous, with Daric Barton drawing a walk to put two on with no outs.
Buchholz would luck out some when Brandon Inge hit a rocket right to Mike Aviles, and almost escaped the inning as the Sox just barely missed turning two on Cliff Pennington's ground ball. That would be the last out Buchholz would record, however, as a walk to Jemile Weeks loaded the bases, and a sharp ground ball single for Coco Crisp plated two runs. With Junichi Tazawa only just having begun to warm, Buchholz was left in to face Josh Reddick, hung a curveball, and was punished when the former Boston outfielder deposited a long ball into the bullpen.
The Sox would end up having the bases re-loaded when Nick Punto dropped a pop-up after Junichi Tazawa gave up a single and hit a batter, but Vicente Padilla managed to end the inning with a strikeout to keep the score at 11-6.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 11, End 6th -- Brian Fuentes finally settles things down for Oakland, inducing three ground balls to end the inning painlessly.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 11, Mid 6th -- Add the sixth to the third and fourth in the list of good innings for Clay Buchholz. No lucky outs this time, just good pitching, keeping the ball on the ground leading to one ground ball single, one double play to erase it, and then a strikeout of Seth Smith, who now holds a coveted hat trick.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 11, End 5th -- The Sox have blown the game completely open in the fifth, and now seem set to cruise to their eleventh win of the season. David Ortiz got the scoring going again by launching his second shot of the night to just about the exact same spot in the pens as last time, though this homer is much more of the booming fly ball variety, and Josh Reddick goes tumbling into the pens trying to make the grab.
The inning could have ended with just that, but Darnell McDonald hit a two-out dribbler towards third which Brandon Inge could not convert into an out. With Tommy Milone now finally out of the game, Jordan Norberto hung a changeup to Marlon Byrd, who scraped the wall for an RBI double to make it 8-1. Mike Aviles would cap off the inning after a Nick Punto walk with a three-run shot into the Monster seats, snapping out of a mini-slump with an exclamation mark.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 6, Mid 5th -- Clay Buchholz is still keeping runs off the board, but he doesn't exactly look impressive in doing so. Aside from the fourth inning, Buchholz has struggled with control and gotten some outs on very hard hit balls, particularly line drives to center. That's still true in the fifth, as he surrenders a walk to Brandon Inge, hits Cliff Pennington, gets one of those line drive outs from Marlon Byrd, and then has Mike Aviles make a ranging play behind second and flip backhanded to Dustin Pedroia for the out to avoid damage.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 6, End 4th -- The Sox have a quiet inning for a change, as Tommy Milone settles down to retire Mike Aviles, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez 1-2-3.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 6, Mid 4th -- Clay Buchholz has a 1-2-3 inning, finally managing to place a curveball low to strike out Seth Smith, and then had Nick Punto make a good play to snag a ball left of the third base bag and throw strong to first for the out. So, hey, he can do things that aren't bad, too.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 6, End 3rd -- The Red Sox add on two more off of the beleaguered Tommy Milone, who walked David Ortiz to lead off the inning and then surrendered a 2-run shot off the top of the Monster in left-center.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 4, Mid 3rd -- Clay Buchholz actually manages to end the third inning with fewer than 50 pitches on his arm--quite the feat given how the Sox' starters have been pitching early on in games of late.
He did get some help from Josh Reddick. Having thrown just five pitches to record the first out of the inning on a ground ball and surrender a single to Coco Crisp, Buchholz offered up just one more to the impatient Reddick, who went swinging away into an easy inning-ending double play.
Athletics 1, Red Sox 4, End 2nd -- Oakland's lead last all of six pitches into the bottom half of the second, as David Ortiz works the count full and then cleans out a fastball, launching a rocket shot into the bullpens in right to tie it at 1-1.
After a strikeout from Kelly Shoppach, the Sox kept right on rolling as Darnell McDonald worked a long at-bat and found the gap in right on the eighth pitch for a double. Marlon Byrd would quickyl bring him in by hitting a sharp grounder that bounced over the glove of Jemile Weeks at second. Mike Aviles and Dustin Pedroia both went way outside the zone to hook line dries into left field for singles that made it 3-0, and Adrian Gonzalez helped to make it 4-0 when, after grounding into the shift, Weeks again proved incapable of making the easy play, leaving his throw to first short and having it bounce over Daric Barton's glove as Aviles scampered home.
Althetics 1, Red Sox 0, Mid 2nd -- Clay Buchholz looks bad, and Nick Punto is not good at baseball. Those are the lead stories in inning number two, which saw the Athletics push across the first run of the game.
While Buchholz was able to strike out the first batter he faced in Seth Smith, commanding the outside part of the plate, he would leave a flat fastball over the plate to Kurt Suzuki, who promptly singled into left. Losing control of the strike zone, particularly inside, Buchholz would walk Daric Barton to put two men on. He was lucky enough to have Brandon Inge's line drive find Marlon Byrd in the outfield for the second out instead of a run-scoring hit, but the Athletics still weren't fooled in the least.
The Sox could well have ended the inning without a run despite all this because, when Cliff Pennington singled into left, the ball found Darnell McDonald fast enough that the lead runner in Suzuki had no chance to score. Even better, when Daric Barton rounded second, he slipped, leaving him dead in the water. Amazingly, though, with Barton caught in the rundown, Nick Punto completely ignored the lead runner in Kurt Suzuki, allowing him to break for home without any sort of defensive resistance.
What value does Nick Punto bring to this Red Sox team? He can't hit, he's been laughable at times on defense. All he does is take up a roster spot.
Athletics 0, Red Sox 0, End 1st -- Mike Aviles got the Sox off to a slow start with a pop-up for the first out, and Dustin Pedroia was ready to make it two with a ground ball to second were it not for Jemile Weeks, who turned a routine play into an amusingly bad error, letting Pedroia reach first and then steal second with one out.
Brandon Inge would make up for said error, however, when Dustin Pedroia cleaned out an inside fastball and hit a rocket directly at the third baseman, turning a possible RBI single into an out. With Cody Ross going fishing for an 0-2 changeup, Tommy Milone escaped into the second unharmed.
Athletics 0, Red Sox 0, Mid 1st -- Clay Buchholz starts his night off on the right foot with a four-pitch strikeout of Jemile Weeks, finishing him off with a curveball away. Coco Crisp grounded to first for the second out, but Clay missed out on a clean inning by walking former Sox outfielder and patience-free hitter Josh Reddick--a feat that takes real effort. Behind Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes was able to square up a fastball, but Marlon Byrd was placed perfectly to make the grab for the final out.