May 8, 2011: Red Sox 9, Twins 5

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May 8, 2011: Red Sox 9, Twins 5

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Red Sox manager Terry Francona was asked before Sundays game what he might be able to expect from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. It was a legitimate question. Matsuzaka left his last start just one batter into the fifth inning with elbow tightness. He had also pitched the 13th and final inning of the marathon game against the Angels that began Wednesday night and ended early Thursday morning, taking the loss.

But given Matsuzakas track record of confounding inconsistency over his five seasons with the Sox, Francona jokingly replied that he hasnt known what to expect from the Japanese right-hander since his arrival in Boston.

Based on his first inning giving up three runs on three hits and walk throwing 34 pitches it appeared the ineffective Matsuzaka was on the mound. But he settled down after that, going six innings, giving up four runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts and a home run, throwing 102 pitches, 62 for strikes.

It wasnt a quality start, but it was enough to hold the Twins off while the Sox offense got in gear.

Matsuzaka earned the win, improving to 3-3, with a 4.64 ERA, as the Sox beat the Twins, 9-5.

Twins starter Carl Pavano had the opposite fortune to Matsuzakas. He cruised through the first inning only to sputter as the game went on. He went five innings, giving up seven runs on 10 hits and walk, with no strikeouts, one home run, and one wild pitch.

Every member of the Red Sox offense (not including Jose Iglesias, making his major league debut as a defensive replacement for Jed Lowrie at shortstop in the ninth inning) had at least one run scored, one RBI, or one hit. Kevin Youkilis matched his career high with four runs scored.

The nine runs the Sox scored matched a season high, the fourth time theyve done so.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Adrian Gonzalez
On his 29th birthday, Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI. That includes his fourth home run, a solo shot going the opposite way to left field in the fifth inning. He leads the team with 24 RBI, while raising his average to .314.

Regardless of the fact that its my birthday, to get three hits and get a W is more important, he said.

In addition to his opposite-field home run, Gonzalez singled up the middle in the third and singled to left in the seventh. After a slow start to the season, Gonzalez said his swing is getting to where he wants it to be. He has three home runs on the homestand.

Its got nothing to do with the park, he said. Its got to do with my swing. My swings getting better and Im trying to stay behind balls and drive through them.

You start backing it up, trusting it more. Its one of those things that I dont usually do it too much in April and once the season goes on I do it more and more.

Ive gone through bad Aprils and good Aprils. Its all the same.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury went 3-for-5, extending his major-league best hitting streak to 17 games. He had a double, two singles, a run scored, and his 10th stolen base of the season. The three hits match his season high, for the third time. Since taking over the lead-off spot on April 22 he has raised his average from .186 to .295.

I think hes always been a good lead-off hitter, said Kevin Youkilis, who matched a career high with four runs scored. Its just everything gets put out there that hes doing bad because its within 50 at-bats. But theres 600 and some at-bats a season. So the next 50 at-bats have been great. Hes doing great. When he gets on base he causes havoc on the bases. Thats good.
THE GOAT: Carl Pavano
Staked to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, Pavano could not hold onto it. He appeared to be in control, cruising through the first inning on 11 pitches, nine strikes (compared to the 34 Matsuzaka threw in the inning), setting down Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez in order. But the Sox got a run back from Pavano in the second, four more in the third, and another in the fifth.

Pavano went five innings, giving up seven runs on 10 hits and walk, with no strikeouts, one home run, and one wild pitch. His record fell to 2-4, while his ERA jumped nearly a run, from 5.84 to 6.64.

THE TURNING POINT
Trailing 3-1 going into the third inning, the Sox sent nine batters to the plate, forcing Pavano to throw 36 pitches, including eight to Jed Lowrie, the last batter of the inning. The Sox scored four runs -- taking a lead they would not give up on five hits, a walk, and an error.

Carl Crawford led off with his first triple of the season, scoring on Jason Variteks groundout to first. Ellsbury singled, Pedroia walked, Gonzalez singled, scoring Ellsbury. Kevin Youkilis grounded into a fielders choice, scoring Pedroia. David Ortiz singled. J.D. Drew singled, scoring Youkilis.

Lowrie flew out to center, but the eight pitches he saw were the most in the inning, driving Pavanos pitch count up, hastening his exit.
STAT OF THE DAY: 368
The Sox entered the game hitting a combined .250, sixth in the American League. But against Pavano and a trio of Minnesota relievers Alex Burnett, Jose Mijares, and Joe Nathan they were a combined 14-for-38 (.368), raising their team average to .254, with nine runs scored, three doubles, a triple, a home run, and eight RBI. The nine runs scored matched a season high.

Every member of the Red Sox offense (not including Jose Iglesias, making his major league debut as a defensive replacement for Jed Lowrie at shortstop in the ninth inning) had at least one run scored, one RBI, or one hit. Kevin Youkilis matched his career high with four runs scored.

It was good, Youkilis said of the offense. Guys swung the bats well. We were down early but we never gave up. Scratched our way back. DiceK settled back in and threw the ball well and our bullpen came in and threw the ball well and got out of a couple of things here and there. All around it was a good performance, offensively and defensively.

QUOTE OF NOTE
I was happy. I was super-happy. And its funny because Scutaro hid my glove right before I went out. So I couldnt find it. I finally found it and was able to get out there a little late but I was obviously very happy. Yes, I was nervous, especially because I couldnt find my glove and I had to get out there.

-- Shortstop Jose Iglesias, through Eddie Romero, the teams assistant director of Latin American operations, on his emotions going out to the field for his major-league debut in the ninth inning

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.