May 7, 2011: Red Sox 4, Twins 0

May 7, 2011: Red Sox 4, Twins 0

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- On Thursday, when the Red Sox needed quantity (and hoped for quality) out of John Lackey in the wake of their bullpen-busting game on Wednesday night, he failed them miserably.

On Saturday, Clay Buchholz was the Bizarro Lackey.

Buchholz saved the Sox on Saturday much as Lackey had sunk them on Thursday. He came back out after a 2-hour-and-7-minute rain delay in the top of the third and pitched three more scoreless innings, saving a depleted Boston bullpen. Rich Hill, Matt Albers, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon took it from there, each working a scoreless inning as the Sox broke their three-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over the Twins.

Buchholz had been staked to a 2-0 lead by the time he left, thanks to a Jed Lowrie RBI single in the first and a Kevin Youkilis RBI single in the third. The Sox finally salted it away with a two-out, two-run rally in the eighth, with Jacoby Ellsbury (2-for-5, extending his hitting streak to 16) singling home the game's final two runs.

Player of the Game: Clay Buchholz

The Red Sox entered Saturday's game without a long reliever, as both Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves were unavailable after working Friday. So when the rains came in the top of the third (and stayed around for 2 hours and 7 minutes), it looked as if Terry Francona would be faced with the unthinkable prospect of cobbling together a seven-inning effort out of his depleted relief corps.

Clay Buchholz to the rescue.

The young right-hander, who'd recorded three strikeouts in the first two innings and looked as strong as he'd looked all season, came back out in spite of the long delay. And he gave immediate notice that he meant business, retiring the Twins 1-2-3 on eight pitches.

He finally faltered a bit in the fifth, issuing his only walk of the day, but was saved by a line-drive-to-third-turned-double-play that ended the inning. The bullpen took care of things after that, allowing Buchholz to increase his record to 3-3 as he lowered his ERA to 4.19.

Honorable Mention: Jacoby Ellsbury

He sparked the Red Sox' first rally with a leadoff double in the bottom of the first, scoring the game's first run on a two-out single by Jed Lowrie. And he completed the Red Sox' final rally with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the eighth, driving home Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carl Crawford (both of whom had singled) and making it 4-0.

In so doing, Ellsbury stretched his hitting streak to 16 games . . . not much by Andre Ethier standards, but still the longest in the American League this year. He's hit .362 (25-for-69) during the streak, lifting his season's average to .282.

The Goat: Jason Kubel and Rene Tosoni

Kubel (right) is probably the lead goat; he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and stranded two runners (including one on third). But Tosoni isn't far behind, not with his 0-for-3, three-strikeout, two-runners-stranded afternoon.

Between them, they accounted for 7 of the 10 strikeouts recorded by Boston pitching without ever putting the ball in play. The Twins didn't have many scoring chances on this afternoon, and these two were a big reason why.

Weird fact of the day: Kubel entered the game second in the A.L. with a .349 average.

Turning Point: The double play

The grateful Red Sox had gotten five innings out of Clay Buchholz in spite of the rain, and turned to their bullpen with a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth. Left-hander Rich Hill, one of the Pawtucket callups earlier in the week, was summoned with the Twins -- who had three lefties in the first four spots -- at the top of their order.

And disaster appeared to be looming when Hill walked the first batter he faced (Denard Span) and hit the second (Trevor Plouffe), putting runners at first and second with nobody out.

But Hill regrouped and induced Justin Morneau to hit a sharp grounder to Adrian Gonzalez at first. Gonzalez threw to shortstop Marco Scutaro for the force on Plouffe at second (at right), and Scutaro's return throw to Hill covering at first was in time for a rally-killing double play that ended Minnesota's only real threat of the day.

Hill then struck out Jason Kubel -- not a big trick on this day, as you saw earlier -- and ended the inning.

By the Numbers: 3

The number of consecutive games in which Joe West has been involved in controversy.

He incorrectly overturned his own call Thursday night in Tampa, then interjected himself into an argument between Terry Francona and umpire Angel Hernandez on Friday. On Saturday, a national TV audience got to see Cowboy Joe in action.

Kevin Youkilis, who had just singled home the game's second run, broke for second on a 3-and-2 pitch to Jed Lowrie with one out in the third. The pitch was ball four, but Twins catcher Rene Rivera threw to second anyway. And West called Youkilis out . . . even though play was dead and Youkilis was entitled to the base.

Youkilis began walking back to the dugout, but saw Lowrie heading to first and tried to dart back to the bag. West repeated his 'out' call, perhaps because the Twins re-tagged Youkilis as he moved back toward second. Then, realizing Lowrie had walked, he reversed himself again and called Youkilis safe . . . even though the Twins made the case that Youk had left the base and was tagged out.

That was manager Ron Gardenhire's argument, to -- of course -- no avail.

Quote of Note:

"My feeling was I had to go out there. I didn't want to tax the bullpen any more than it was. . . . Just trying to help out. I knew the guys had a rough couple of days."

-- Clay Buchholz, who stayed loose during the 2-hour-and-7-minute delay by throwing 20 pitches on three different occasions in the batting cage behind the Red Sox dugout.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Tony Massarotti in the Cumberland Farms lounge believes there is 0% chance David Ortiz comes out of retirement.