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The Boston Red Sox needed a strong bullpen performance Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In 10 innings, the offense had left 13 men on base.
Luckily, a strong performance is exactly what they got.
The Red Sox relief trio of Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon combined to allow just a bunt-single through the final three innings, holding down a 4-2 Red Sox win over the Angels in 11 innings. Jenks picked up his first win of the season after throwing a perfect 10th inning. Papelbon struck out Angels second baseman and primary power threat Howie Kendrick with a runner on second to pick up his fourth save.
The Red Sox broke open a 2-2 tie in the top of the eleventh. After J.D. Drew walked (one of two) and took third on a Dustin Pedroia (3-4, two walks) single to right, Adrian Gonzalez (2-5, walk) drove him in with a double to right that got past right fielder Torii Hunter and rolled to the wall. Jed Lowrie made it 4-2 Red Sox by driving in Pedroia with a sacrifice fly. During the previous at-bat, Pedroia had eluded a tag during a rundown.
The Red Sox had no trouble getting men on base Thursday night; it was getting them home that proved nearly impossible. Through 10 innings, Boston managed just one hit with runners in scoring position: a two-run single by Jacoby Ellsbury in the top of the sixth off Angels starter Tyler Chatwood (six innings, two runs, six hits, five walks, three strikeouts) for the 2-0 lead.
That lead was erased when starter Josh Beckett (eight innings, two runs, three hits, two walks, five strikeouts) finally tired in the bottom of the seventh (through five innings, Beckett did not allow a hit) and allowed a two-run home run to Hunter, tying the game 2-2. It was a lone flat breaking ball on a night of otherwise sharp pitches. Beckett continues to dominate, even if the win-loss record doesn’t reflect it.
The Red Sox went 2-18 with runners in scoring position Thursday. They had eight multi-runner innings, but only capitalized twice (the sixth and the 11th). In the eighth, they had the bases loaded with only one out, but Drew struck out and Pedroia popped out to second to end the threat.
In the seventh, Drew and Pedroia reached on walks to start the inning, but Gonzalez popped out, followed by two strikeouts.
After Pedroia and Gonzalez reached on consecutive singles up the middle in the first, Kevin Youkilis waged a 10-pitch battle with Chatwood before grounding into a double-play. During the at-bat, Youkilis fouled four pitches off his leg and foot. Before the second inning, Youkilis came out of the game. Dugout cameras showed a significant bruise on his left shin.
Lowrie moved to third once Youkilis left, with Marco Scutaro taking over at shortstop. Scutaro went 0-3 with runners in scoring, but made a nifty play in the bottom of the ninth, sliding gracefully to stop a ball hit up the middle, getting up quickly and firing to first for the out.
The Red Sox continue to struggle with runners left on base. They average over six stranded per game. The pitching – both starting and relief – seems to be figuring itself out. But unless the offense can back them up with actual runs, eventually every pitcher will falter.
The Red Sox got lucky Thursday night. The Angels squandered as many chances as the Red Sox did (Drew’s strong through to Pedroia helped gun down shortstop Erick Aybar’s attempted triple in the bottom of the eighth). In the future, Boston might not be so lucky.
Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks, Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard, Dustin Pedroia, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Marco Scutaro, Torii Hunter, Tyler Chatwood