A strong start from John Lackey and a slow-but-steady day at the plate helped the Red Sox finish their sweep of the Twins with a 5-1 victory.
Unlike the explosive attack we saw from the Red Sox both on Saturday night and the last time they faced Pedro Hernandez, this was a much more slow and steady sort of production from the lineup, putting up runs one at a time. Will Middlebrooks was the man to get it started, launching a solo shot to the opposite field with two down in the second inning to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
That would be the loudest hit of the night for either team, and the next run wasn't even the result of a hit at all. Instead, with Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes walking with one out in the third, Dustin Pedroia came up to bat and nearly ended the inning with a ground ball to Trevor Plouffe. Instead of starting the double play, however, the Minnesota third baseman fired the ball into center field, allowing Victorino to score and make it 2-0.
The Red Sox would not capitalize further on the opportunity Plouffe's error provided them, however, and would waste another first-and-third, one out situation in the fourth on a failed safety squeeze from Pedro Ciriaco and a Shane Victorino line drive which was snagged by the ever-involved Plouffe at third. They would manage to tack on a third run in the fifth, thanks to singles from Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli, but Aaron Hicks came close enough to catching a Daniel Nava line drive to the warning track that Ortiz actually tagged up at second before heading to third, leaving the bases loaded and no runs in. Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 1-2 behind them, leaving the Sox with eight stranded runners through the first five.
Still, even though it was just a three-run game, heading to the bottom of the fifth, John Lackey's fantastic start had it feeling like a blowout. Lackey would strike out Joe Mauer in a 1-2-3 first, and Wilkin Ramirez in a 1-2-3 second. Not one of the first twelve Twins to take the plate would reach base, leaving Lackey perfect through four.
That would change in the fifth, when who else but Trevor Plouffe doubled to left field to break up the perfect game. A strange call by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild sent Oswaldo Arcia down to first, "hit" by a curveball that broke into the dirt but never really seemed to get close to the batter himself. Still, Lackey proved up to the task of battling back, striking out Wilkin Ramirez again before getting a ground ball that should have ended the inning. Unfortunately, despite having plenty of time to make the throw from second to complete the double play, Pedro Ciriaco fired well wide of Mike Napoli at first, allowing the Twins to score their first run of the game.
That was all John Lackey would "allow", going right back to the 1-2-3 frame in the sixth. Even with his pitch count under control, he wouldn't see an at bat in the seventh, because that's when the rains came. And they did not leave for a long while. Three hours the umpires would let it sit before resuming the action in front of a crowd of maybe 200.
Andrew Miller would take over after the tarp was pulled, making quick work of a cold Twins lineup, but after a scoreless top of the eight, Koji Uehara would not have it quite so easy. After giving up a double to Wilkin Ramirez, Uehara struggled with control, mixing a single and walk with a pair of strikeouts to load the bases with Joe Mauer coming up to the plate. Boston's reliable setup man would come through under pressure, though, striking Mauer out and returning to the dugout for his customary round of high fives.
If the bottom of the eighth gave the Twins hopes for a comeback, Dustin Pedroia put an end to them in the ninth with a little help from Josh Willingham. With Jonny Gomes on first via a walk, Pedroia hit a rocket to left field, taking Willingham all the way to the wall. The Twins' left field leaped and got his glove on the ball, but served only to knock it up onto the outfield wall, and eventually--after a surprisingly long roll--over it for a home run. The homer would put the Sox up 5-1, meaning even when the Twins picked up a couple of hits in the ninth against Junichi Tazawa, they never so much as brought the tying run to the plate.
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