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.

Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

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Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

The Red Sox made another pitcher-for-infielder roster swap today, sending William Cuevas back to Pawtucket and bringing up Mike Miller as his replacement.

The Sox had summoned Cuevas from the PawSox over the weekend when they ran through their bullpen in Friday night's come-from-behind victory over Texas and he pitched twice against the Rangers, holding them to two hits over 2 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday and Sunday. Deven Marrero had been shipped out when Cuevas arrived, leaving the Sox with only one backup infielder (Marco Hernandez).

Now they have two again, with Miller making his first trip to the major leagues. He's been primarily a second baseman for Pawtucket, though he's also seen action at short and third. Miller -- the team's ninth-round selection in the 2012 draft -- had a combined .251 average in 46 games for the PawSox and six games for Double-A Portland.

However, his stay with the Red Sox will likely be as short as Cuevas'. Brock Holt may soon be ready for reactivation, after having missed more than a month because of a concussion, and he could take Miller's roster spot when he returns.

Bogaerts taking aim at Red Sox and MLB hits records

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Bogaerts taking aim at Red Sox and MLB hits records

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.