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Red Sox Spring Training Update (3/5-11): Offense Clicking Early

Daniel Butler hits a three-run home run during the seventh inning of Monday's spring training game against the Minnesota Twins. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

One thing is clear a week into Spring Training: this Red Sox team can hit. In going 4-2-1 this week, the Red Sox averaged over five runs a game. Even with Jose Iglesias missing Sunday’s “B” game with a strained right groin, this crop of hitters look just as formidable as the league-leading 2011 Red Sox did.

Non-roster shortstop Pedro Ciriaco wins this week’s “Spring Training Player of the Week,” going 5-for-8. How did everyone else do? Here’s your weekly Red Sox Spring Training Update!

Red Sox 10, Twins 2

The Red Sox put Monday’s game away with a four-run second, beginning with a double by Darnell McDonald, who later scored on a single by non-roster invitee Josh Kroeger. A wild pitch moved Kroeger to second, Kelly Shoppach singled him to third, then Kroeger scored on RBI groundout. Shoppach scored on another wild pitch from Jason Marquis, and an RBI groundout by Ryan Sweeney chased Marquis and put the Red Sox up 2-0.

David Ortiz (2-3) led off the third with his first home run, and Boston scored five more in the top of the seventh to make it a 10-2 game. An RBI single by Will Middlebrooks (2-3) and an RBI ground-rule double by non-roster player Nate Spears made it 7-2, then Dan Butler‘s homer made it 10-2.

Clay Buchholz started and earned the win, pitching two scoreless innings while giving up just two walks with two strikeouts. Buchholz’s injury last year completely derailed both the pitching rotation and probably the season. A healthy Buchholz makes Boston’s top three starters as good as there is in baseball.

Red Sox 5, Orioles 4

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia showed exactly whey they should be the Red Sox’s first two hitters Tuesday, with Ellsbury doubling to start the bottom of the first and reaching third on a single by Pedroia. Ellsbury then scored on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway added an RBI single immediately following Adrian Gonzalez‘s RBI double in the third.

Daniel Bard started, and Alfredo Aceves relived him in the third. Two players expected to play big roles on the Red Sox this season, Tuesday they combined for four no-hit innings, striking out four and giving up just one walk.

Red Sox non-roster pitcher Alex Wilson gave away the lead with four runs allowed over 1+ innings, getting lifted with none out and a man on second in the sixth. Clayton Mortensen came on, stranded the runner and threw 2 1/3 innings in which he gave up just one hit and struck out four.

With two out and Spears on second in the seventh, Ciriaco doubled to put the Red Sox up 5-4. Michael Bowden set the last five Orioles down in order for the save and a win for Mortensen.

Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 3

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third Wednesday on a sac fly from Sweeney, but non-roster pitcher Justin Thomas gave up a bases-loaded single to Edwin Encarnacion to make it 3-1 after three.

The Red Sox got lucky in the top of the fourth, when Blue Jays non-roster shortstop Omar Vizquel threw away a grounder from Juan Carlos Linares. Two runs scored, tying the game 3-3.

After that, both pitching staffs took over. The Blue Jays’ final four pitchers limited the Red Sox to two walks and a hit over five innings, while the Red Sox’s final five only allowed two base runners in one inning once. After nine innings, neither team felt like continuing a meaningless game, so they called it a draw.

Red Sox non-roster invitee Justin Germano started Wednesday’s game, pitching two innings on one-hit baseball. Chorye Spoone, another non-roster player, struck out two with a hit and a walk in a scoreless seventh.

Cardinals 9, Red Sox 3

Josh Beckett looked impressive in his start Thursday against St. Louis, giving up just two hits with no walks and no strikeouts over three scoreless innings. Felix Doubront came on in relief, looking solid for two innings before faltering in the bottom of the sixth. He left with two on and none out, but non-roster pitcher Jesse Carlson allowed both to score on a bases-loaded triple by Cardinal first baseman Matt Adams.

The Red Sox tied the game in the top of the eighth on a bases-clearing triple of their own, this time by Iglesias.

The tie didn’t last long, however, as St. Louis scored six in the bottom of the eighth. Chris Carpenter – Boston’s compensation for Theo Epstein going to Chicago – gave up a bases-loaded walk, and replacement Garrett Mock allowed all three runners to score on a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded double. The Cardinals went up 9-3 on a fielding error by Kroeger, and the Red Sox went 1-2-3 in the ninth to lose for the first time this spring.

Carpenter took the loss.

Pirates 7, Red Sox 4

Buchholz’s second start of Spring Training couldn’t quite match his first, giving up two runs on three hits and a strikeout over three innings Friday night. The Red Sox began climbing back into the game in the bottom of the fourth with Ortiz’s second preseason home run, but non-roster reliever Vicente Padilla put the game out of reach in the fifth.

Padilla gave up back-to-back-to-back doubles in that ending, and only a 4-6-3 double-play saved him from giving up more runs. The Red Sox entered the bottom of the fifth down 6-1.

Kroeger immediately delivered an RBI double to cut the deficit to 6-2, and Cody Ross (2-3) added an RBI single in the sixth. McDonald (2-2) added a one-out homer to left to make it 7-4 in the seventh, but Boston couldn’t do enough to catch Pittsburgh.

Buchholz took the loss, while the win went to Pirates starter Shairon Martis. Tim Wood pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Among the Red Sox relievers, Bowden and Brandon Duckworth combined for a perfect eighth and ninth.

Red Sox 5, Rays 0

Bard and Aceves delivered an even stronger 1-2 punch Saturday than they did Tuesday, combining for six scoreless innings, allowing just six base-runners and striking out three. They benefited greatly from a quick start from the Red Sox offense, who built a four-run lead over the first three innings.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew a bases-loaded walk in the first, then the Red Sox went up 3-0 in the second on a two-run error by B.J. Upton. A double from Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the third made it 4-0, while Kroeger’s ground-rule double in the eighth made it 5-0.

Bard got his first win in Spring Training, but the bullpen after Aceves allowed seven base-runners in three innings. That won’t do come Opening Day.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 1

Jon Lester didn’t exactly dazzle in his first start Sunday, giving up a run on a hit, four walks and two strikeouts in four innings. But he finished strong, retiring seven of the final eight Baltimore hitters.

Red Sox hitters, meanwhile, bashed out 11 hits – including nine singles – against the Orioles. They also drew four walks Sunday, with a single and a walk setting up Pedroia for a 2-RBI double in the bottom of the second. They turned a 3-1 lead into a 5-1 lead midway through the seventh on an RBI single by Lars Anderson and an Orioles throwing error during a possible double-play.

Anderson and Pedroia each finished with two hits, while Lester got the win. No Red Sox reliever pitched perfectly, but non-roster player Aaron Cook held the Orioles to just two walks over two innings.

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