By Art Martone
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 email@example.com.