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Finally back at .500, the Boston Red Sox squandered their first opportunity at a winning record this season, falling 4-1 Tuesday night to the Baltimore Orioles.
Felix Doubront pitched a solid six innings, striking out nine and giving up just four hits, allowing his only runs on a Steve Tolleson two-run home run in the second inning. Matt Albers gave up another two-run blast to Wilson Betemit in the bottom of the eighth, all but putting the game out of reach with the way the Red Sox were swinging the bats.
The Red Sox bats were silent all game, scoring just one run on a Kevin Youkilis solo shot in his first game back from the disabled list. The only other hit the Red Sox mustered was an Adrian Gonzalez single off Orioles starter Brian Matusz, barely a blip among the 9 Boston batters Matusz sat down with strikeouts. The Red Sox lineup had even worse luck against the suddenly vaunted Baltimore bullpen. Baltimore relievers combined to shut the door for 2.2 hitless innings, including a 1-2-3 top of the ninth on just eight pitches from Orioles closer Jim Johnson.
Thankfully, nearly everything about Wednesday’s game was the polar opposite of the night before, from the Red Sox starter “earning” the win despite a poor performance, to the Red Sox lineup awakening from its slumber to crank out 13 hits. The end result was a 6-5 Red Sox win to rebound from Tuesday night’s disappointing loss and take the rubber match of the three-game series from the first-place Orioles. The Red Sox are now back at .500 with another chance to get on the right side of winning.
While neither starting pitcher was sharp enough to make it out of the sixth inning, Daniel Bard managed to (barely) outpitch the Orioles’ Jake Arrieta. Bard only gave up two runs on five hits, but continued his wildness by walking four Orioles batters in just 5.1 innings. He has now walked 19 batters in his five starts during the month of May. Luckily, Arrieta was even worse, surrendering four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Both starters coughed up a home run.
Similarly, the Red Sox bullpen managed to simply outlast their Oriole counterparts with one run to spare. The Red Sox finally managed to break through against the Baltimore for a couple of much-needed insurance runs, giving the Boston bullpen a little breathing room for their usual adventurous visits to the mound in the late-innings. Lefty Andrew Miller was tagged for two runs on a Nick Johnson home run (the same Nick Johnson who was out of baseball for a year, and a left-handed hitter, no less), and Padilla gave up a sacrifice fly to Betemit in the eighth inning.
On the brighter side, Rich Hill struck out the only two batters he faced in relief of Miller (at least one lefty specialist was effective), and Alfredo Aceves shut the door with a perfect four-out save, his eleventh of the season.
Thanks to the dearth of healthy outfielders in the Red Sox clubhouse, Gonzalez shifted to right field the past two games to make room at first base for the returning Youkilis, with Will Middlebrooks staying at third base (for the time being, anyway). Even with Youkilis, the Red Sox lineup struggled to score runs yesterday with Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross on the disabled list.
On Wednesday, the difference on offense came from key contributions from their AAA replacements. With the way Daniel Nava has been hitting since his call-up ((his line now sits at a blistering .350/.491/.600), his home run to put the Red Sox on top 3-2 comes as no surprise.
But the real hero – and the real surprise – was Scott Podsednik. The 36-year-old outfielder was recently acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies and signed to a minor league deal, then brought up from Pawtucket with the injuries to Ross and Sweeney. After pinch-hitting last night for Marlon Byrd (he grounded out), Podsednik got his first start since 2010 on Wednesday and quickly made the most of it. With the Red Sox up 5-4, Podsednik cranked a solo shot over the wall in right that proved to be the winning run. It was just the 42nd home run of his career.
After going 5-3 on their road trip, the Red Sox now travel back home to start a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jon Lester (3-3) will face Alex Cobb (1-0) Friday night at Fenway. First pitch is at 7:10pm.