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Missed Opportunities: Red Sox Offense Struggles In Clutch, Pirates Top Boston, 3-1

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The Boston Red Sox continued interleague play Friday night, as they traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates.  The Sox were without one of their big weapons, David Ortiz because of NL rules of no designated hitter.  In a night where Boston had mediocre performance from the middle of the order, they certainly could have used him.  While Boston compiled nine hits, they could not execute in the clutch, falling to the Bucs, 3-1.  

With this loss, the Sox have dropped three in a row.  Luckily, New York lost as well so Boston still holds a half a game lead in the AL East.

Jon Lester started the game for the Red Sox, looking for win number ten on the season.  Through two innings, Lester seemed to have gotten into his groove, but ran into trouble in the third inning.  Lester loaded the bases with no out and gave up an RBI single to Jose Tabata  that scored Ronny Cedeno.  He then was forced to trade another run for two outs on a Chase d'Arnaud double play that scored for Sox minor league catcher Michael McKenry from third.

For the exception of a Lyle Overbay RBI single in the sixth, Lester settled down and pitched quite well; going six innings giving up two earned runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out five.  The hit total seems high, but never the less, a solid start from Lester.  He however had zero offense to work with, zero.

In a lineup without David Ortiz, the Red Sox were forced to bat Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron at five and six respectively.  I never question Francona's decision making, but we're talking about Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron hitting in the middle of the order.  In case your wondering, they were a combined 1 for 7 with two strikeouts and left six runners on base.

While those two were key weakpoints, the rest of the lineup wasn't much better.  For the exception of a Kevin Youkilis RBI groundout in the first inning, the offense was incapable of putting up runs against Pirates starter Paul Maholm and the Pittsburgh bullpen.

The Red Sox had great opportunities in the third and fifth innings foiled by Darnell McDonald, not the usual Ortiz.  In the third with the bases chucked against Maholm and two outs, McDonald responded by grounding out to end the innings.  Then in the fifth with two gone, Boston had men on second and first only to have McDonald fly to center.

To be fair, it wasn't all McDonald's fault.  The Sox had a rally going in the seventh inning when Josh Reddick (who should have started this game) and Dustin Pedroia both reached base with one out.  In a big RBI spot, Adrian Gonzalez couldn't execute, as he popped out in foul ground.  To round out the only the adequate part of our lineup tonight, Kevin Youkilis struck out to end the inning.  Another missed opportunity.

Ortiz finally got shot in the eighth inning with runners on second and third innings.  However he too could not not produce in the clutch, as he hit a lazy groundball to Cedeno at short for the final out of the inning.

I should give credit to Maholm, who got a well deserved win this evening.  This guy is probably the most unfortunate pitcher in baseball, as he usually pitches well but doesn't have the necessary run support.  Tonight, he pitched pretty good and got just enough run support.  He managed five and third innings while only giving up the one earned run on six hits.  The Pirates bullpen preserved the win for him, only allowing three Red Sox hits for the remainder of the game.

The Red Sox will look to even the series tomorrow as former Pirate Tim Wakefield will be on the mound for Boston as he will face former Yankee prospect Jeff Karstens at 7:05 p.m. at PNC Park.