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.

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.