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Red Sox Split Squad, Fall To Marlins, Tie Orioles

With two games to play Saturday, the Red Sox divided their squad, sending mostly backups to face the Baltimore Orioles and keeping most of the starting squad at home to take on the Florida Marlins. In what seems to be a growing trend, it was actually the group of backups and prospects that came closest to getting the job done.

The starters fell behind very early against the Marlins thanks to a disastrous start from Daisuke Matsuzaka. While his changeup seemed to be working early, pretty much nothing else was. A three run first inning was helped along by an error from Marco Scutaro, who couldn't come up with a throw from Dustin Pedroia, but the four runs split between the second and third were all Daisuke. Matsuzaka finished the day with seven runs allowed--five of them earned--on six hits, two walks, and a home run.

The pitching didn't necessarily get that much better, either. Both Jonathan Papelbon and Bobby Jenks managed impressive, clean innings, but Tim Wakefield couldn't escape the sixth inning, giving up two runs on four hits. Worst of all, though, was Daniel Bard, who was all over the place, allowing two of his own.

The Sox were in no rush to dig themselves out of the hole, either. After only managing two baserunners during Anibal Sanchez' three innings, Daniel Nava left the bases loaded in the fourth, leaving the Sox scoreless until Darnell McDonald doubled home Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Their only other run came off a Yamaico Navarro solo shot.

Things were somewhat better over in Sarasota, however.

Getting the start was Alfredo Aceves, who added three more solid innings to his resume. Aside from an unearned run on an error by Will Middlebrooks, Aceves kept the Orioles off the board despite some strong contact.

The Sox seized the opportunity for an early lead, and outscored their counterparts in Fort Myers with a two-out rally in the second. Drew Sutton sparked it with a ground rule double, Jose Iglesias followed with a single, Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk, and much as he had against the Yankess, Oscar Tejeda capped off the scoring with a two-run triple.

The lead didn't last very long, though. After Aceves made his case for a spot on the roster out of spring training, Atchison gave Terry Francona every reason to leave him off. The fourth inning only saw a lone hit for Adam Jones, but Atchison failed to record a single out in the fifth, walking two and allowing two runs on a Vlad Guerrero single. 

With Dennys Reyes and Jason Rice maintaining the tie, Tejeda again gave the Sox a clutch hit, bringing home Jose Iglesias with a ninth inning single that could have given the Sox the win. But it was not to be. With Matt Fox in for the save, Jake Fox (no relation) tied the game with a loud shot over the left field wall. The tenth passed uneventfully, and with the split-squad Sox running out of options in the pen, the tie was called.

The Good

Oscar Tejeda: While Tejeda hasn't picked up a home run yet, he's doing a great job of proving that last year's power outburst was no fluke. Forget that he's hitting .538--the middle infielder already has a pair of triples.

Carl Crawford: The Sox' big free agent signing of the offseason finally recorded his first hit of spring, and then quickly followed it up with another base knock and a walk.

Jose Iglesias: Three more hits for Jose puts him up over .400.

Yamaico Navarro: Navarro's power might be one of the better kept secrets in the organization. His homer today might have let the cat out of the bag some, though.

Darnell McDonald: The only other offensive bright spot in the Florida game with a pair of hits, including a double.

Bobby Jenks: Jenks was spotting his pitches, earning swings and misses, and looking very much like a closer in his two-strikeout inning.

Jonathan Papelbon: He wasn't quite as impressive as Jenks, but Paps had it going on too.

The Bad

Tim Wakefield: The Knuckleball got some guys early on, but once they were prepared for it, Wakefield got knocked around. Still, one wonders how annoying it must be for a batter to have to face one in spring training knowing that's the only time they're going to see it all year.

Will Middlebrooks: One hit in five at bats most certainly does not make up for a few defensive miscues on the day.

The Ugly

Daisuke Matsuzaka: One hopes that today's performance is just another spring training blip. But I'd like to meet the Sox fan who has any hope left for Matsuzaka these days.

Daniel Bard: On the other hand, one bad day for Bard isn't going to rattle the faith of many. Still, an ugly day. Bard had no control unless it was over the middle.

Scott Atchison: He managed to get one more out than Bard, but with a good chunk of Atchison's value coming from his ability to go multiple innings, his implosion in his second inning of work does not help his chances.

Juan Carlos Linares: Linares' hot streak came to an abrupt halt today. An 0-5 performance with three strikeouts wasn't enough to drop his average to even .350, but it wasn't pretty by any means.