Things were already bad when Delmon Young came to the plate in the bottom of the first for his 100th career bases loaded plate appearance. Erik Bedard was struggling with his command, Jason Varitek was noticeably uneasy receiving Bedard offerings, and the Twins were making comfortable swings. But there was another factor, the horrific umpiring of Tim McClelland, that was also playing a key role. If you don’t believe the actual evidence, consider the circumstantial. Bedard had issued zero bases on balls his last time out and Minnesota had walked just once as a team in their previous 182 plate appearances. And then the kicker, Young "worked" just the third walk of his career with the bases loaded to plate a run. Everything was amiss, especially McClelland, although Bedard was giving him a run for his money. When the first ended, the Twins held a 2-0 advantage.
To his credit, Bedard settled down. After the first he allowed just two singles, struck out four (six total) and retired the final seven batters he faced. He induced 13 swinging strikes in his five innings of work. In his first game at Fenway the Luck Dragon got the best of Bedard and in this game it was a shaky first inning by both Bedard himself and McClelland that held him back. Aside from some crappy in-play luck last Thursday and tonight’s first frame, though, fans have to be happy with what Bedard’s managed to show thus far.
I reminisced earlier in the day about some of my favorite role players – bad players even – on some otherwise excellent Red Sox teams of recent lore. Alex Cora came to mind. So did Cesar Crespo and Damian Jackson and Bobby Kielty. Remember when Kielty homered on the only pitch he saw in the 2007 World Series?
What prompted this daydream of sorts was seeing Darnell McDonald’s name in the lineup instead of Josh Reddick’s. McDonald’s numbers are pretty bad with the Red Sox, .248/.320/.406 coming into tonight’s game to be exact, but he hits lefties pretty well and he’s a terrific guy by all accounts. As fans, we like D-Mac, and he came through in a major way off of Francisco Liriano, homering with a man on to tie the game at two in the fifth.
After the Red Sox took a lead in the top of the sixth thanks to a Jason Varitek single, the Twinkies tied it up in the bottom half off of Matt Albers. Albers looked sharp at first, striking out Jim Thome, getting Danny Valencia to 0-and-2 before allowing a single and then striking out Delmon Young. Then Tsuyoshi Nishioka timed up an Albers fastball beautifully, taking the offering high off the right field wall for an RBI double. After one more walk, Albers got out of the sixth thanks to a Ben Revere ground out to shortstop Jed Lowrie.
The Red Sox took the lead right back in the seventh. Dustin Pedroia walked, Adrian Gonzalez roped a double to left-center field and Kevin Youkilis walked to load the bases. Then after Ron Gardenhire brought on Phil Dumatrait to face David Ortiz, one of the funnier plays I’ve seen in a while resulted in a Red Sox run. Dumatrait never really seemed to have his balance chasing down Ortiz’s slow roller along the first base line, and then stumbled right over the ball instead of picking the ball up and tossing the ball to first or home to get an out. Everyone was safe and the Red Sox had the lead while the bases remained loaded. Unfortunately that’s how they would remain after Lowrie and Carl Crawford failed to inflict additional damage.
From there it was pretty uneventful. Franklin Morales, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon combined the rest of the way to close out the Twins. Final score was 4-3 and the victory ran Boston’s record to 72-43, 70-33 since beginning the season 2-10. They have a 2.5 game lead in the American League East, they’re 8.5 clear of a playoff spot.