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At the very least we can say that they are sticking to the theme of the weekend. After the Boston Bruins collapsed to complete one of the biggest choke-jobs in sports history on Friday, the Boston Red Sox entered Saturday night’s game hot off a solid 7-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers where they saw a solid outing from Clay Buchholz and more signs of life from David Ortiz. After five innings of more solid ball, with a two-run home run by Bill Hall giving them a 6-1 advantage, the Sox went on to blow the lead and lose yet another game in extra innings (they are 1-6 in games decided in extra frames so far this season) by a final of 7-6 at Comerica Park in Detroit.
The collapse by the Bruins being what it was, which was on a much larger scale (I promise I won’t bring it up again), when you go 4-15 with runners in scoring position, and fail to capitalize more on 12 walks handed to you (seven by Dontrelle Willis, who was just awful), then it’s safe to call this one a choke-job. It only seemed fitting that the Red Sox ended up dropping this one in excruciating fashion, care of a four-pitch walk from Ramon Ramirez. The fourth and final pitch was not even close, and the Tigers’ Ramon Santiago (seriously?! him?!) trotted down to first base to seal the victory, only after his teammates had steered him off his path towards the dugout and educated him on the basic rules of baseball. That was just the salt in the wound of a night that showed that while the Red Sox are in an enviable position to start relying on their starters more and more, this bullpen is suspect at best. Save for Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, it’s tough to say what you are going to get on a nightly basis from this cast of characters whose job description falls ironically, and most uncomfortably, under “relief.”
There were some positives of which to harp on in this game. Jon Lester, whose line does not depict how well he actually pitched (seven innings, four runs, four hits, four walks, and 10 strikeouts), is starting to look like his usual second-half-of-the-season self, and David Ortiz had another solid night after earning his first start against a lefty since the season-opening series against the New York Yankees.
But the trouble lied, once again, in this team’s inability to keep it together down the stretch and into the late innings of games. See: the bullpen. Hideki Okajima once again gave a somewhat nauseating effort, blowing a two-run lead in remarkably fast fashion, which led to another extra-inning game where the Red Sox are just unable to sustain competitiveness. After Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen did what they could to keep the Sox afloat, the bottom of the 12th inning would be punctuated by an ineffective at-bat pitched by Scott Schoeneweis (why is he still on this team?) and the subsequent bases-loaded walk given up by Ramirez, after he did well to strike out the previous pinch hitter in Alex Avila.
While it’s clear that the Red Sox would serve themselves well in these coming games to compete against the elite in their league and keep pace with the Yankees and Rays, it’s also clear that this team’s fate could be determined not by their offense, which had worried most everyone heading into this season, but by their pitching staff. If the starting five can maintain a certain steady and controlled rate of success as we know most of them are capable of, then it’s the back-end of this staff that will either push this team to the brink of postseason play again, or push them down to the cellar of the A.L. East; a position this team has not known too well in recent years. It’s simple: so goes this bullpen, so goes the Red Sox.
More encouraging signs that the once-prolific slugger is still alive and kicking. After a two home-run night on Friday, Ortiz went 3-6 on Saturday night with two RBIs. One was an opposite-fielder laced off the outside of the plate, which is certainly also encouraging.
His final line for the night: 2/3 of a inning, two earned runs, a strikeout and a home-run given up to Magglio Ordonez. Okajima has not looked like himself up to this point in the season, just another sign of the troubles this team has been having in the bullpen.
W: Jose Valverde (1-1)
L: Manny Delcarmen (1-2)
An almost capacity crowd was at this game (40,742), which is a good sign for Tigers and the city of Detroit.
Tags: Bill Hall, Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Detroit Tigers, Dontrelle Willis, Hideki Okajima, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, New York Yankees, Ramon Ramirez, Ramon Santiago, Scott Schoeneweis