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Monday, April 30, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 11, A's 6

By Tony Lee



BOSTON -- Do we need to remind you how the first homestand of the season ended for the Red Sox? Well, yes, we do. We’re trying to make a point here.

The Sox dropped the last five games of that first Fenway Park stay by a combined score of 46-17. The finale was that ugly 15-9 loss to the Yankees in which the Boston bullpen blew an eight-run lead. You might remember.

Things seemed to have calmed down a bit since those stormy days at the Fens. A 6-1 road trip can have that effect. For good measure, the Red Sox attempted to remind their fans just how painful those games can be, flirting with another late-game meltdown before securing an 11-6 win over the Oakland Athletics on Monday.

In the end, the punchless A’s didn’t have enough. Not when compared to the power of David Ortiz and the glove of Dustin Pedroia, who turned a difficult double play to end a bases-loaded threat in the eighth. If that play didn’t get made, the powerful Yoenis Cespedes loomed as a potential tying run in a game the Red Sox once led by 10 runs.

Boston has won seven of eight and is back at .500. It wasn’t a work of art, unless you compare it to the last time the Red Sox played at Fenway Park. In that case it was akin to a priceless Monet.

Can’t buck the trend: There has been one clear positive for Clay Buchholz this season: He always picks the right day to pitch. Buchholz entered the night leading the majors with an average of 9.67 runs of support. It’s the primary reason that the Red Sox had been able to split his first four starts, despite his ugly 8.87 ERA.

On Monday night at a chilly Fenway Park, Buchholz continued to get the support. For awhile it looked as if he wouldn’t need it, but a promising line became an unsightly one after he surrendered five runs in the seventh inning and stormed off the mound when manager Bobby Valentine yanked him with two outs.

Buchholz looked OK at times, but he was far from perfect. He gave up seven hits, walked five, hit the No. 9 batter in Oakland’s rather weak lineup and gave up a few loud outs to center. Former teammate Josh Reddick took him deep in the seventh.

With the Aaron Cook decision looming and Daniel Bard coming off a very solid outing, some felt that Buchholz’s hold on a rotation spot was somewhat flimsy. Although he had his moments, Buchholz did not do enough to completely quiet those itching for improvement. Or for a change.

Now, about that run support: Ortiz continues to treat left-handers like they're pitching batting practice. He had a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the second inning against southpaw Tommy Milone and took Milone deep again in the fifth to make it 7-1. The Red Sox slugger is now 13-for-29 (.448) with three home runs against lefties.

Inspired by their large designated hitter, a lot of the little guys got into the act for Boston. Darnell McDonald and Mike Aviles also homered and Marlon Byrd added an RBI double and RBI single.

No Youkilis, no problem: For the second straight day, Valentine was forced to scramble when Kevin Youkilis had to be removed from the lineup roughly one hour before first pitch. Although the offense struggled Sunday in Chicago without Youkilis, who was beginning to show signs of a breakout, it didn’t need him Monday.

The Sox batted around in the second and scored in double figures for the fourth time in seven games, doing so by the fifth inning.

Five does not equal six: In the case of Ortiz and Kelly Shoppach, the fifth and sixth hitters in the lineup, that was rather clear. While Ortiz was busy recording his 38th career multi-homer game and reaching base three times, Shoppach was extending a difficult stretch.

Shoppach has three hits in his last 18 at-bats, striking out 11 times in that span. He fanned three times Monday. The discrepancy between the power of one and the nothingness of the other was alarming. Don’t bank on seeing that pairing back to back all that often going forward.

The old 7-2-4-5-6 putout: When there are 17 runs scored, few remember the first. But this one came in rather odd fashion.

With runners on first and second and one out in the second, Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington dunked a single into left field. The throw from McDonald went home, but Kurt Suzuki had held up rounding third. In fact, he wasn’t even close to heading home, but Daric Barton rounded second way too far, as if he had an open base in front of him.

Barton was quickly caught in a rundown. With two outs, that would kill the A’s first rally of the game. However, Suzuki timed his takeoff for home perfectly and Barton stayed alive just long enough to allow the run to score before Aviles put the tag on Barton.

Something about April 30: A nice tidbit in the game notes reminded us that the Red Sox defeated Philadelphia by a 19-0 score on this date in 1950. Like Ortiz, a Boston lefty went deep twice. Some guy named Ted Williams.

Speaking of Williams, Ortiz needs one more multi-homer game in a Red Sox uniform to match the Splendid Splinter’s team record of 37.