Saltalamacchia breaks through in the clutch

Saltalamacchia breaks through in the clutch
May 19, 2011, 5:25 am
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By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The cold, rainy, windy, foggy and overall miserable conditions at Fenway Park Wednesday night were suited to just about anything other than offensive success.

When Jarrod Saltalamacchia stepped to the plate with two outs and Carl Crawford on first in the eighth inning Wednesday night against Tigers lefty Daniel Schlereth, he had gone hitless and his team had just three hits, all singles.

But on the fourth pitch of this at-bat -- a 2-and-1, 90-mph sinker -- he lashed a double off the Wall in left-center, scoring Crawford for the games only run.

"It felt good to come out with a win obviously, Saltalamacchia. This weather has been crazy. So for us it seemed like the first team to score was going to win the game. Both pitchers pitched great. They had a lot of situations to score and we had Clay Buchholz to hold them down.

I've been hitting the ball hard, but haven't always got the results. Felt good that it turned my way for once.

Saltalamacchia entered the game hitting just .217 (18-for-83) overall and just .150 (3-for-20) against lefties. He had a slow start to the season. His average
poked above .200 just once in April and in May, he has struggled to keep it above that dubious line of demarcation.

But with Wednesdays go-ahead double, he has hit safely in 12 of his last 16 starts, going 15-for-56 (.268). Six of his last 12 hits have gone for extra bases, with five doubles and a home run.

When you start out as slow as he did, its not always going to come back in one chunk, said manager Terry Francona. But I think hes making progress and he'll be fine as long as he lets the ball travel and doesnt get overanxious like he did early. Hes a big, strong kid. That ball was about as well-struck as youre going to see. And hes plenty quick, just needs to swing at pitches he can handle. That at-bat early in the game he offered at two of their off-speed pitches, kind of check-swing and then took the fastball. So sometimes hes in between.

Saltalamacchia has noticed a difference in his swings over the last couple of weeks.

Just feeling more comfortable the last two weeks, Saltalamacchia said. The more ABs, you get the better you feel. Always felt like second half of the season I'm better. I don't know what to credit that to. But like I said, me and hitting coach Dave Magadan sat down and started talking and slowed everything down. Just slow it down and put good wood on it.

And if the ball didnt hit the Wall?

"If it didn't, I would have walked off right there, Saltalamacchia joked. I hit that ball well. That's the way it's been going. I've hit the ball good and it just hasn't fallen in.

Although Buchholz didn't earn the win, having pitched seven scoreless innings before giving way to Daniel Bard, he could appreciate Saltalamacchia's effort.

That was awesome, Buchholz said. He squared that ball up. Might have been a home run in a lot of parks. Good to see everybody was part of a team effort to win a game like this considering everything that went on.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen