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Red Sox Spring Training Wrap-Up (3/21-3/27): Sox Lose Mayor’s Cup, On 10-Game Losing Streak

Jarrod Saltalamacchia hits a home run in the second inning of Thursday's game against the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Hey there, Sox fans! Sports of Boston brings you the final full week of Boston Red Sox Spring Training games, as player and fan alike eagerly await Friday’s Opening Day!

The Red Sox made several roster moves this week, leaving their roster at 32 players. On Friday, the Red Sox reassigned four players to minor league camp and optioned Scott Atchison and Ryan Kalish to Triple-A Pawtucket. In 8.1 preseason innings, Atchison had a 6.48 ERA. Kalish batted .235 in 51 at-bats, but led the team with five steals.

On Saturday, the Red Sox purchased the contract of journeyman reliever Dennys Reyes, adding him to the 40-man roster. Reyes is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA this Spring Training. He has eight strikeouts in nine innings. The purchase means Reyes is guaranteed his $900,000 salary this year.

Josh Reddick was sent to Pawtucket on Sunday.

Now then, let’s talk about the games themselves. Be warned: it ain’t pretty.

Phillies 4, Boston 1

Since being named Opening Day starter, Jon Lester has not been the same pitcher. Before the announcement, Lester did not allow a run. In the two starts since, including Monday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Lester has allowed seven. He has a 5.81 ERA in his last two starts.

Lester did not allow a hit until two outs into the fifth inning, but left with two outs gone in the sixth after six straight Phillies had reached base and scored three times. Lester only allowed six hits – none for extra bases – but still took the loss, giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits, four walks and six strikeouts.

Matt Albers, still fighting for a spot in the bullpen, struck out three in 1 2/3 perfect innings.

The Red Sox could do little with Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who went 7 2/3, giving up an earned run on five hits, a walk and six strikeouts. The Red Sox tied the game 1-1 in the fifth when non-roster first baseman Drew Sutton drove in Jed Lowrie (1-2, double, run scored, walk) with a sacrifice fly.

Rays 7, Red Sox 4

Continuing through the recently-established pitching rotation, No. 2 John Lackey started Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately, Lackey fared no better than Lester. In 5 1/3 innings, Lackey gave up five earned runs on six hits (two home runs), two walks and four strikeouts.

The Rays scored in six different innings Tuesday, making it very difficult for the Red Sox to ever cut into the Rays lead. They were down 2-0 after two innings, 3-1 after three, and 6-1 after seven.

Making it even harder was Rays starter David Price, who allowed just an earned run on five hits, two walks and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3.

The Red Sox tried to get back in the game when minor league first baseman Aaron Bates hit a three-run home run to make it 6-4 in the eighth. But the Rays scored again in the top of the ninth for the 7-4 lead.

Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia both went 2-3. Both of Pedroia’s hits were doubles.

Gonzalez DH’s in Minor League Game Wednesday

With the Red Sox off Wednesday, Adrian Gonzalez played designated hitter in a minor league game against a Florida Marlins affiliate. Gonzalez went 3-6 with an RBI and a run. He made solid contact in all six at-bats, including a deep single that likely would have clanged off the Green Monster at Fenway.

Gonzalez returned to the Major League lineup Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Marlins 15, Red Sox 7

The Red Sox rotation was further rocked Thursday against the Florida Marlins, as the Red Sox losing streak extended to over a week. This time, the victim was Clay Buchholz, who gave up 11 runs (six earned) in just four innings of work. He allowed four homers, including two three-run shots to Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton, who finished the game with seven RBIs.

The Red Sox generated an offensive explosion of their own off Marlins starter Javier Vazquez (W, 4 IP, 6 ER, 8 H, 4 K). Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 3-3 with a home run (his first of Spring Training), two doubles, four RBIs and a run. Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-3 with a home run, two RBIs and a run. Sutton went 2-4 with a double and two runs-scored, and Lowrie went 2-3 with a run scored.

The Red Sox were in it through three innings, and began the bottom of the fourth tied 5-5. But a six-run fourth inning made it 11-5 Florida, and the Red Sox could only score two more runs all game.

In separate minor league starts, Tim Wakefield (Triple-A, five innings) and Jonathan Papelbon (Double-A, one inning) gave up six (five earned) and two runs, respectively.

Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 8

The Red Sox are in free fall. The starting rotation has already allowed 14 earned runs. Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays, starter Josh Beckett allowed seven more. In six innings, Beckett gave up seven earned runs on 11 hits (one home run) and five strikeouts. In no inning did Beckett retire the first batter he faced.

Despite Beckett’s poor performance (yet again), the Red Sox actually began the seventh inning down just 6-5. But Reyes struggled in relief of Beckett, giving up three runs (two earned) on two hits (one home run) and a walk.

At least it was a strong day for Red Sox hitters, who banged out 17 hits against Blue Jays pitching. Carl Crawford, Gonzalez, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Varitek each had two hits. Gonzalez, Ortiz and Varitek all doubled, and Drew scored two runs.

Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth, giving up a hit and striking out two.

Twins 9, Red Sox 8

It’s rare to find the words “stopper” and Daisuke Matsuzaka in the same sentence, but that’s almost what happened Saturday against the Minnesota Twins. Matsuzaka had the best start of any Red Sox starter in over a week, giving up just a run in six innings. He gave up five hits and a walk while striking out five, and he left with the Red Sox up 8-1.

Unfortunately, reliever Bobby Jenks picked a terrible time to give up the first runs of his Spring Training. The Twins scored six times in the top of the ninth to take a 9-8 lead. Only two of those runs were earned, as the Red Sox committed three errors during the game, including one in the ninth.

At the plate, Saltalamacchia continued his offensive production, going 2-4 with a double and a run. Darnell McDonald, back from a thumb injury earlier in the week, went 2-3 with a bases-loaded triple that drove in three in the second. Gonzalez went 2-3 with his first home run of the preseason.

Jenks’s ninth-inning meltdown cost the Red Sox the Mayor’s Cup. For those unfamiliar with it, the Mayor’s Cup, so-called because both teams play in Fort Myers, Fla., is awarded to the winner of the Twins-Red Sox preseason series. It’s like the World Series trophy, only nobody cares.

Orioles 4, Red Sox 3

The Red Sox wrapped up their week with a Sunday-afternoon showdown with the Baltimore Orioles. Wanting to keep the rotation aligned and rested for Opening Day, Terry Francona used relief pitchers for all nine innings. Brandon Duckworth started and went two innings, giving up just a walk.

Through the first seven innings, the Red Sox held the Orioles to just a run. But in the eighth, Santo Luis gave up three earned runs on five hits without recording an out. The Red Sox could not mount a comeback in the ninth, and lost for the 10th-straight game.

The Red Sox went up 2-0 in the third on a Drew two-run home run. Sutton’s fourth-inning triple gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.

Marco Scutaro went 2-4 and a run.

Limping to the Finish Line

It’s quite possible the Red Sox have started looking beyond Spring Training games to the fast-approaching regular season. Perhaps they see these games as formalities, not meant to be taken seriously. Perhaps their only goals are to start the season rested and healthy. But along the way, they’re losing a lot of games.

The lone bright spot this week was the performance by Red Sox catchers. Varitek and Saltalamacchia combined for nine hits this week. The Red Sox were considered weakest in their lineup in the catcher’s spot. If Varitek or Saltalamacchia can regularly contribute like this, the lineup will be all the more dominant.

Slightly troubling have been all the unearned runs opposing teams are scoring against Red Sox pitchers (11 this week). Both of Boston’s World Series teams played strong defense (in 2004′s case, after the Nomar Garciaparra trade). If the bullpen struggles, it will be key for the team to not give away extra outs.

But even more troubling has been the string of bad starts by Red Sox starters. Lester’s performances since being named Opening Day starter have not inspired confidence. Nor have Lackey’s and Buchholz’s, who will also be facing a lot of quality pitchers as the second- and third-pitchers in the rotation.

Beckett’s ERA has ballooned to 6.64. It would not be surprising to hear that he’s playing through an injury. But that isn’t exactly comforting: the Red Sox’s first replacement – Wakefield – has an ERA of 7.45.

Only Matsuzaka has been strong lately. And that’s saying something. April 1 cannot come fast enough.

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