Sox offense fails to shift gears late in game

Sox offense fails to shift gears late in game
August 4, 2012, 4:43 am
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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.