Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 8, Astros 4
April, 27, 2013
By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- It was beautiful across the region Saturday afternoon. That loveliness did not necessarily extend to the Astros-Red Sox game Saturday night.
There were 15 walks, two errors, one hit batter, one wild pitch, one passed ball and one balk in a game that lasted three hours, 40 minutes, tied for the second-longest this season for Boston. The end result was an 8-4 victory for the Sox, who now have sole possession of the best record in baseball. For many in these parts that's a thing of beauty, no matter how it comes.
Here's some of what we saw along the way:
Large Papi: The Sox have been playing good baseball since the outset, but it's no coincidence that they are 6-1 with David Ortiz in the lineup. At 37 and on bad wheels, he still looks as good as ever at the plate and added to his phenomenal start with three more RBIs Saturday.
Ortiz singled in the first, doubled in two runs in the third and had a line-drive sacrifice fly to left in the fourth. He also drew a walk in the sixth and shook his head a bit as he strolled toward first, possibly upset he didn't get his hacks in. Ortiz's night ended on a fly to the warning track in left-center in the seventh.
Start me up: One of the last items NESN showed on its Red Sox pregame show was a statistic touting the team's ability to take early leads and make them stick. Boston entered Saturday with a 12-0 record when scoring first, the stat said.
Just minutes later the Astros had two runs on the board and runners all over the place as boos were raining down on Felix Doubront, who could not find the strike zone. The significantly less popular stat about Boston being 4-7 when the opponent scores first was never brought up, but winning would require an uphill battle after Doubront's difficult opening.
His 31-pitch first inning featured three walks (one to force in a run), a hit batter, a wild pitch and multiple mound meetings with teammates.
But because they're the Astros: Doubront did finish strong. He started throwing strikes and managed to work two outs into the seventh, allowing only four hits overall and leaving with a 5-3 lead. A big test for the lefty will come next weekend in Texas. The Rangers aren't the offensive power they've been in recent years, but they're still pretty darn good and that park can be a nightmare at times for opponents. Doubront should know. He gave up six runs in five innings there last July and owns an 11.37 ERA in his career at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Doubront's ability to settle down after the early hiccups is not without significance. With John Lackey coming back Sunday for his first start since the injury-shortened one in Toronto earlier this month, the Sox know they'll need their bullpen. Some guys were stretching in the pen before the sun went down Saturday, preparing for a possible early exit by Doubront, but John Farrell did not need to make a change until half the city was asleep.
Oh Daniel boy: The Daniel Bard saga had another chapter, as the hard-throwing but embattled righty walked the only two men he faced in the eighth, throwing just one strike along the way. Bard missed badly with some of the offerings and was eventually charged with a run when Alex Wilson came on and gave up an RBI single.
Bard slammed his glove on his leg as he left the mound. That amounts to a pretty extreme show of emotion for the mild-mannered Bard, who will not be called upon to get any big outs in the immediate future.
Bottom's up: While Ortiz did his damage and Dustin Pedroia reached base three times, the bottom of the order keyed the charge for the Sox. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew combined to go 4-for-9 with four walks, six runs scored and an RBI.
Middlebrooks looked especially comfortable at the plate and seems to be rediscovering his groove near the bottom of the order. He is now hitting .296 in limited action in the seventh and eighth spots in the order after batting .159 when slotted fifth or sixth.
Up next: Lackey faces Bud Norris in the series finale Sunday before Boston has a day off and then visits Toronto for three and Texas for three.