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The Red Sox started the day just 2.0 games ahead of the Rays in the AL Wild Card race, and after 18 long innings of baseball against those pesky Orioles, the Sox remain just 2.0 games up with eight games to go.
W: Jeremy Guthrie (9-17) – 6.0 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 3 Ks
L: Kyle Weiland (0-3) – 4.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 5 Ks
SV: Jim Johnson (7)
It’s not Kyle Weiland’s fault. The Red Sox are without Clay Buchholz, Erik Bedard and Daisuke Matsuzaka in the starting rotation. So, the Red Sox have been forced to call on the rookie in must-win games down the stretch. He started off Game 1 OK, allowing no runs or hits during the first two innings.
He then had trouble in the third and fourth innings and couldn’t get out of the fifth. In the end, he allowed 6 runs (5 earned) on five hits and two walks. He allowed three home runs and took his third career loss.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Felix Doubront (1.1 scoreless IP) and Alfredo Aceves (3.0 scoreless IP) saved the bullpen. They would be needed in Game 2.
Carl Crawford was scratched shortly before the game with a stiff neck he suffered during batting practice. In his place was Darnell McDonald, who had a bit of an adventure out in left field in Game 1.
With a runner on first and one out in the third inning, McDonald muffed a fly ball in the outfield. His error led to runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out, a situation which the Orioles capitalized on when Matt Angle singled home both men to give the O’s a 2-0 lead.
McDonald atoned for his error a bit in the next half inning, hitting a solo HR off righty Jeremy Guthrie.
Ortiz lined what would have been an RBI double right off the wall below Pesky’s Pole in the fifth inning. Or did he?
You be the judge:
The umpires called the ball foul. Ortiz later flied out to center to end the inning, and slammed his batting helmet in disgust. Clearly (at least to me), the umpires got it wrong. That ball hits at least a foot to the left of the foul pole in fair territory. Considering the Sox lost by just one run, this play loomed large in the result.
W: Scott Atchison (1-0) – 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 Ks
L: Brian Matusz (1-8) – 1.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 9 Ks
In the nightcap, John Lackey was called upon to help the Red Sox win perhaps their most important game of the year. Coming into the game, he had been the worst full-time starting pitcher in the majors. Nothing changed.
Lackey yielded 8 earned runs on 11 hits in just 4.2 innings despite being spotted 11 runs by the Sox bats through three innings. Terry Francona just could not leave him in to “earn” the win as Lackey struggled to make it through five.
“It just got to the point where it’s hard to leave him in,” Francona said. “We needed to stop the runs, now.”
By the end of the year, Lackey will have made more than $15 million this season. With three years left on the deal, what are the Red Sox going to do with the worst starter in the major leagues? For right now, he has to keep going out every fifth day due to the quandary they are currently in. If the Sox are even lucky enough to make the playoffs, they have to seriously consider leaving Lackey off the roster.
Thankfully the Red Sox still have a pretty good offense, as their starting rotation continues to let them down every single day. Coming off a 3-3 effort in the first game, Marco Scutaro led the charge with three more hits in Game 2, scoring three times and driving in two runs.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, and Dustin Pedroia also finished with three hits. Ellsbury picked up his 28th HR (the inside-the-park variety) in the 7th inning, and Gonzalez added two walks as part of a 3-3 effort at the plate.
Jed Lowrie, though, saved the Red Sox early. Down 3-1 in the first inning, Lowrie hit a go-ahead, three-run HR to give the Red Sox new life and Lackey another chance to redeem himself. The Sox didn’t look back after Lowrie’s HR.
Conor Jackson even got in on the action, hitting his second career grand slam, clearing the bases in the seventh inning to blow the game wide open.
Michael Bowden pitched the final two innings to give the Sox the 18-9 win.
The Red Sox have two more games against the O’s, an off-day, three against the Yankees in the Bronx, and three more against the O’s in Baltimore to close the season. They’re up 2.0 games in the Wild Card with eight to play.
Erik Bedard returns to the bump on Tuesday against Rick VandenHurk.