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Red Sox Fall To Twins, Take Down Astros In Split-Squad Games

The Red Sox were on the road today in two different locations, looking for their eighth and ninth wins of the Spring.

One sqaud that consisted of Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis traveled to the other side of town to Lee County Sports Complex to take on the Minnesota Twins.  The other group that consited of Marco Scutaro, Dustin Pedroia, and Ryan Kalish traveled up to Kissimmee, Florida to take on the Houston Astros.

Naturally, the team that consisted of more projected opening day starters and a deeper bench would probably fair better than the other team that hardly had any starters and a short bench would right?  Well this is Spring Training so anything can happen.

The Twins lineup that featured every projected opening day starter except Joe Mauer took the field today and defeated the Red Sox 3-2.  While the other part of the split squad marched in and defeated the Astros 9-3.

Details after the jump.

vs. Twins

Jon Lester took to the mound for the Red Sox this afternoon and looked nothing less than spectacular.  Lester was able to keep the Twins lineup scoreless for the four innings that he pitched and even managed five strikeouts. 

There was hardly much offense in this game until the top of the third inning when Yamaico Navarro drove home Drew Sutton on an RBI single of Twins starter Brian Duensing to put the Sox up 1-0.  Later in the inning, David Ortiz drove in Jacoby Ellsbury (who was 2 of 3 on the day) home to give the Sox the 2-0 advantage heading into the fourth inning.

Carl Crawford looked like the Carl Crawford of earlier as he went 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts.  Today's game marked the second consecutive game that manager Terry Francona slotted Crawford in at the 2 slot.  Crawford also committed an error in the outfield, which is a rarity.  Overall, not a good day for C.C.

Kevin Youkilis also stuggled today, as he to went 0 for 3 with a couple of strikeouts.

In relief of Lester came Jonathan Papelbon in the fifth inning with a 2-0 lead.  Like many times last year coming in slim leads, Papelbon gave the lead away.  While up 2-0, Papelbon surrendered three earned runs in the inning including RBIs by Denard Span, Jason Repko, and Jeff Bailey.  Papelbon only lasted a third of an inning and gave the Twins a 3-2 lead in that time

For the exception of Papelbon, Red Sox relievers did a good job for the rest of the game.  Hideki Okajima, Jason Rice, and Tim Wakefield all performed well and limited the Twins to just two total hits for the rest of the game.  Rice relieved Papelbon in the fifth and recorded the final two outs and didn't allow another hit. 

However, the Red Sox lineup couldn't get anything done after that as the mostly minor leaguers at that point only mustered one hit off of Twins pitching for the rest of the game.  Youngster Kyle Waltrup came in and shut the door for the Twins in the ninth, striking out all three Red Sox hitters in the ninth inning to finish the game.  Final: 3-2 Twins win

vs. Astros

Meanwhile, up the road in Kissimmee, Florida; the other Red Sox team was taking on the Houston Astros.  While the names in the game weren't as notable as the last, they performed a little bit better.

The offense kicked it off early as Dustin Pedroia hit an RBI ground-rule double driving in Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie off starter Brett Myers.  With two out in the inning, Daniel Nava singled home Pedroia to give the Sox a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the inning.

A couple of Pawtucket names added to the total in the second inning as Will Middlebrooks hit a leadoff double to start the inning.  While Mark Wagner hit an RBI triple to score Middlebrooks, and eventually scored himself.

On the mound for the Red Sox was young right hander Kyle Weiland, who ran into trouble early.  With runners on the corners and just one out, Astros left fielder Carlos Lee hit an RBI Double to left field which drove in Michael Bourn.  Weiland then struck out Jason Michaels and got Jon Gaston to pop out to center, escaping danger. 

The trouble wasn't over for Weiland as he surrendered a double to Humberto Quintero, who eventually scored on a fielders choice from Michael Bourn.  Weiland then allowed Tommy Manzella to get on base, and was lifted for Dan Wheeler after just an inning and third of work.  Wheeler allowed Manzella to score, which was charged to Weiland's line.

After Weiland's exit, the Red Sox relievers shut out the Astros for the remainder of the game.  Names like Dennys Reyes, Matt Albers, and Rich Hill all made cases for a roster spot as the three combined to only give up one hit and two strike outs in three innings of work. 

The Sox offense scored sparingly in the fourth, and seventh innings on an RBI groundout by Marco Scutaro and RBI single by Ryan Kalish, respectively.

In the end, young Clevelan Santeliz came in to shut down the Astros in the ninth inning.  Final score: 9-3 Red Sox win.

The Good

Dustin Pedroia: Pedroia's 2-for-3 performance today against Houston showed us that the laser show is indeed back.  Pedroia's line including a double and a triple shows that he is really up to full speed, as his foot doesn't appear to be a factor at this point.

Jon Lester: Lester continued his strong spring with another dominant performance today against the Twins regulars.  Lester's five strikeouts and zero runs allowed today hopefully foreshadowed what is still to come.  With many questions surrounding Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, it is great to know that Lester will hopefully be that solid rock at the front-end of the rotation.

The Bad

Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis: C.C. and Youk's combined 0 for 6 performance isn't what you would call encouraging.  So far this Spring, the two have had a hard time getting on their feet as Youkilis is hitting a dreadful .182 while Crawford is only managing a .208 average.  We are really counting on these two this season to provide a lot of our offense, lets hope they heat up in the upcoming games.

The Ugly

Jonathan Papelbon: Papelbon's debacle today reminded us all of last season's struggles when given a slim lead.  As a result, he only recorded one out and gave up three earned runs--surrendering the lead to the Twins.  While it is still early, Papelbon is really on a short leash at this point, and with Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks in the wings, Terry Francona could choose to remove Papelbon as the team's closer.