Sox offense fails to shift gears late in game

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Sox offense fails to shift gears late in game

BOSTON -- The Red Sox knew they needed more than two hits to win a ball game. They learned that lesson on Thursday night at Fenway Park in a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

So on Friday night, they switched gears, and finished with 14 hits. Only problem was, the result didn't change.

The Red Sox lost their third straight game, 6-5, in extra innings. But they had plenty of chances to tack onto the five runs they scored in the first three innings.

"With Felix Doubront pitching with a four-run lead, I think they thought there was going to be a different kind of game," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine on his offense's mindset. "And then they had to shift gears."

The Twins tied the game at 5-5, thanks to a four-run fifth. And that's where Valentine saw his team try to switch those gears.

But after going down in order in the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox stranded two runners in the seventh, three in the eighth, and one in the ninth.

The eighth inning was the most painful of the Red Sox offensive struggles on Friday night. With one out, Boston got back-to-back singles from Carl Crawford and Kelly Shoppach, which was followed up by a Mike Aviles walk to load the bases for the top of the order.

But Jacoby Ellsbury struck out swinging, and Dustin Pedroia flied out to right field to end the inning.

"I felt like we were in complete control of the game, and then they had a big inning," said Pedroia. "We just seemed to not be able to find a way to score.

"We had chances. We just didn't come through. That's basically it. They made some good pitches . . . It's just tough.

"We're playing hard," Pedroia later added. "We just, last night, that was awful offensively. And tonight, it was a good game, we just didn't find a way to pull away. When Crawford hit that big home run, we didn't score any more runs. We've got to do a better job of that."

The Red Sox left 10 total runners on base, and finished Friday's loss 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.Their last runner in scoring position came in the bottom of the ninth, with the game still tied at 5-5.

Ryan Lavarnway drove a two-out double off the top of the wall in left-center, and was then replaced with Pedro Ciriaco as the pinch runner. It had all the makings of a dramatic finish, but Will Middlebrooks grounded out to third to end the inning.

"Talent can only go so far," said Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross after the loss. "We have to figure out ways to win. There's a difference between being a really talented group, and being a winning group. On paper, it looks like that, but right now, it just feels like we're treading water. It's not a good feeling. We've got to snap out of it."

Crawford's talent came through with a three-run home run in the third inning that gave the Red Sox a comfortable 5-1 lead at the time. But after that, they couldn't figure out a way to drive in any more runs.

"We had good at-bats, and we had chances, and then we didn't have such good at-bats," said Valentine. "We'll get them tomorrow."

But the number of hits won't matter. The difference will come in the number of hits with runners in scoring position.

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.