By Maureen Mullen
BOSTON The Twins entered last nights game with a record of 11-18, one of just two teams with a worse record in the American League than the Red Sox. They were worst team in baseball at scoring runs, with just 89 this season, the fewest in baseball. Their pitchers had allowed 151 runs, tied for fourth-most. Those numbers did little to help the Red Sox Friday night at Fenway, as they fell to the Twins 9-2 at Fenway Park.
Over the last two games, Red Sox starting pitching has sorely been lacking. Friday night it was Tim Wakefields turn. Starting in place of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was pushed back to Sunday after pitching an inning of relief, and taking the loss, in Wednesdays marathon game with the Angels, Wakefield lasted just 4 13 innings against the Twins, his second start of the season. He allowed eight runs (six earned) one nine hits and four walks with a strikeout and a balk.
Wakefield gave up a solo home run in the first inning to Trevor Plouffe in his first plate appearance of the season. He gave up three more in the second, including one on a balk. Manager Terry Francona came out to discuss the call with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez and was ejected.
In the fifth, Wakefield gave up a walk and four hits while recording just one out, before giving way to Alfredo Aceves, who was called up before the game. Wakefield left two runners on base for Aceves. After Aceves struck out his first batter, the Twins scored two more on Jed Lowries first of two errors on the night. Wakefield took the loss, falling to 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA.
The Sox offense, meanwhile, could do little with Twins starter Scott Baker, who went eight innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk, with eight strikeouts. The two runs came on solo homers by J.D. Drew in the second and Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth. Baker earned the win, improving to 2-2, with a 2.97 ERA.
With the loss, the Sox fall to 14-18.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Scott Baker
The Twins right-hander kept the Red Sox off balance and off the scoreboard for most of the night, except for solo home runs by J.D. Drew and Adrian Gonzalez. In his fifth start of the season, he improved to 2-2, lowering his ERA to 2.97. Except for the home runs, he allowed just one baserunner to reach third Carl Crawford on Jarrod Saltalamacchias ground-rule double in the eight, his final inning.
It was his first career win against the Sox, in his fifth appearance (fourth start).
Throw hard, Jed Lowrie said of what made Baker successful. He was consistently in the low to mid 90s all night, and locating it, and throwing the slider and changeup enough to keep people off balance. Just had good stuff tonight.
HONORABLE MENTION: Trevor Plouffe
In his first plate appearance of 2011, Plouffe, who was called up Wednesday, homered off Wakefield in the first inning for the Twins first run of the game. He went 2-for-4 and was on base four times, with a walk, and reaching on a fielders choice, and scored three times. It was also during his second-inning at-bat that Tim Wakefield balked, scoring the Twins fourth run of the game, third of the inning.
THE GOAT: Tim Wakefield
Although Wakefield was making just his second start of the season, the Red Sox and their bullpen, which was still recovering from 8 23 innings in the marathon game that started Wednesday night and ended in the wee hours of Thursday morning needed him to go deeper, and better, in this game. In his last start, May 1 against the Mariners, he went 5 23 innings, throwing 76 pitches, giving up just one run on three hit. Something along those lines would have helped. Instead, he lasted just 4 13 innings, throwing 84 pitches, giving up eight runs (six earned) on nine hits with four walks, a strikeout, and a balk. Alfredo Aceves, who was called up just before the game, finished the rest of the game, 4 13 innings. Aceves longest outing this season is five innings in a start for Pawtucket on April 29. Availability for his next game is uncertain. Likewise, Wakefield probably wont be available for several days either.
I had a little trouble today, said Wakefield, who fell to 0-1, with a 5.73 ERA. Obviously I walked four guys and couldnt find the strike zone and when I did, one ball was hit out of the park and the other one was a double a couple of doubles. Other than that this wasnt a good night.
Just one of those nights. Tried to get us deep in the game and that didn't happen. So Im disappointed in that. Were trying to rest guys and the bullpens been taxed the last couple of days and I take a lot of pride in trying to give us innings and I didnt get into the fifth, so
THE TURNING POINT
With the Twins up, 3-0, in the second inning, two outs, two runs already across the plate in the inning, and runners on first and third, it appeared Wakefield, who faked a throw to third and threw to first, had picked Ben Revere off first base. Instead, homeplate umpire Angel Hernandez immediately called a balk. Instead of the Sox getting out of the inning, the Twins scored another run.
Manager Terry Francona approached Hernandez for an explanation of the play. He was quickly rebuffed and ejected. The situation escalated with Francona frustrated in his inability to get an explanation. Crew chief Joe West, umpiring third base, attempted to intervene, but the situation rapidly deteriorated. Francona became irate at Wests attempts to hold him away from Hernandez. As Francona left the field, he removed his tobacco from his mouth, firing it in Hernandezs direction. Francona will likely face a suspension and possible a fine for his efforts.
West was grabbing me, Francona said. I didnt appreciate that. I thought it was wrong. I thought he was out of line.
The scene represented a microcosm of the Sox 2011 season frustration, an inability to find answers, and coming out on the losing end.
STAT OF THE DAY: .316
The Twins entered the game hitting a combined .230, last in the American League, 28th out of 30 major league teams. Against the Sox Friday night, they went 12-for-38, (.316) raising their team average to three points to .233.
Lead-off Span, Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer, and Danny Valencia each had two hits.
QUOTE OF NOTE:
Were not going to use yesterday as an excuse for today. In that game we were here till 3 in the morning playing, 2:30, whatever it was. It doesnt matter. We got to move on.
--Jed Lowrie, if the long game that started Wednesday evening and ended almost eight hours later, at 2:45 Thursday morning with the Sox losing to the Angels has had any emotional or physical toll on the team.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen