Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boston Red Sox [Print without images]

Sunday, May 6, 2012
Rapid reaction: O's 9, Sox 6 in 17 innings

By Tony Lee




BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Baltimore Orioles outlasted the Boston Red Sox 9-6 in 17 innings:


OK, he left this one several hours before it ended, but let us start with Clay Buchholz. The rest of it was a maelstrom of errors (five of them), double plays (eight), baserunning miscues and position players trying to pitch (Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis threw two scoreless innings to get the win while Darnell McDonald gave up the go-ahead runs in the 17th for Boston). In other words, it was a mess, as was the Red Sox homestand.

But first, Buchholz. Initially he was just shaking off the rust from his injury-shortened 2011 season. Then, according to his manager, Buchholz had a blister issue. There were positives in each of his starts, they all said, regardless of the numbers. Give him time. He'll work it out.

Clay Buchholz
Clay Buchholz is serving up an alarming number of long balls.
Perhaps that is the case and Buchholz still has it in him to be an effective pitcher once again. But the Red Sox cannot endure much more of this before getting to the root of Buchholz's issues. That may require time on the disabled list, whether he is hurt or not, or a move to the bullpen. Almost any alternative will do, for Buchholz is up in John Lackey territory. Actually, it's worse -- Lackey's ERA after six starts last year was "only" 7.16. Buchholz's has climbed to 9.05 after he was lit up for five runs in just 3 2/3 innings of Sunday's loss.

The right-hander has surrendered 47 hits (10 of them homers) in only 32 2/3 innings. He has struck out just one more batter (20) than he has walked (19).

Despite all of that, Buchholz was already off the hook by the bottom of the fifth inning, when rookie Will Middlebrooks tied the game with a grand slam. Amazingly, Buchholz has just one loss in six subpar starts.

In keeping with the one-in-six theme, Boston won one of six games on this homestand. They are 1-10 in their Past 11 games at Fenway Park. Hard to believe. Then again, when your starting pitching stinks ...

Back to the bullpen: It was imperative that Buchholz have a lengthy outing Sunday. Between the 13-inning affair on Friday and the abbreviated start by Aaron Cook on Saturday, Red Sox relievers had already thrown 13 1/3 innings in the first two games of the series. That was bumped up to 26 2/3 innings when Buchholz left early and the matinee affair played into the evening.

Seemingly, the highlight of every Red Sox game lately has been the work of the bullpen. With Sunday's effort by Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, Rich Hill and Scott Atchison, the relief unit has now allowed just six earned runs in the last 53 2/3 innings (1.01 ERA). That does not include the inning by McDonald, but let's be fair here.

Expect another roster move before Boston begins a three-game series in Kansas City on Monday. The crew is severely overworked and Felix Doubront, who has struggled to last deep into games, goes in the opener versus the Royals.

Making his second career pitching appearance, McDonald gave up a tiebreaking three-run homer to Adam Jones in his second career pitching appearance. That was the difference.

Miller time: Let's be honest. Even the Red Sox have almost no idea what to expect from Miller, who was activated from the disabled list Sunday. Not only was he up and down all of last season, but his rehab appearances in Pawtucket produced some of the more awe-inspiring numbers you could imagine, in both good and bad ways.

Miller struck out 23 men in 11 innings for the PawSox. He also walked 14. Obviously there was very little contact made, as evidenced by the paltry total of four hits allowed.

Before the game, Valentine was asked about Miller's control issues and what to expect. He said it depended on many variables -- the skipper even mentioned the wind as one such factor. Apparently the breeze was an agreeable one, for Miller struck out three in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Give me a double. Play, that is: The Red Sox turned six double plays, twice their previous season high. Four of the twin killings were turned in consecutive innings from the 12th through the 15th.

The worst good day imaginable: Although this falls under the header "Red Sox Report," Davis' day (night) has to be recognized. The O's DH struck out in each of his first five at-bats before grounding into a double play in the 13th. He grounded out again in the 14th and 17th. He will probably take that any day he can throw two scoreless innings and get the first, and probably only, win of his major league career.

The worst day imaginable: Adrian Gonzalez was 0-for-8 and struck out against Davis in the 17th with two runners on base.

Will Middlebrooks
Will Middlebrooks become the fourth Red Sox player to hit a grand slam for his first career home run.
Man in the middle: In the five days since being recalled from Pawtucket, Middlebrooks has batted eighth, enjoyed an off-day, batted second, been scratched because of a tight hamstring and batted eighth again. Nothing uniform about that opening weekend in the big leagues. One thing that has remained constant is his ability to hit the ball.

Middlebrooks hammered a Tommy Hunter offering over the Green Monster in the fifth for his grand slam. His first career homer is also his third career extra-base hit. He has four hits overall, so the reputation for slugging has not come without merit.

The 23-year-old is the first Red Sox player with an extra-base hit in each of his first three games.

The second coming? Middlebrooks' homer came exactly 97 years after Babe Ruth hit his first. Just sayin'.

He also got a few other firsts out of the way, including his first error and his first rookie mistake when he failed to run hard out of the box on a ball that fell into the left-field corner. He got only a single out of what should have been a double, and that came with two outs in the 11th, a time when you might want a runner in scoring position.

In other news: Kevin Youkilis, who just might get Wally Pipp-ed by Middlebrooks, has begun a "walking program" in his effort to come back from a lower back strain. As one astute member of the media corps was quick to point out, he is the "Greek God of Walking Programs." Or something like that.

It may be a stretch to expect Youkilis back when he is eligible to come off the disabled list early next week. When asked about that, Valentine said only, "It's tough to put a clock on an injury. When Youk's ready, he'll definitely let us know."

Salt in the wound: It hasn't been a very smooth season behind the plate for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, especially of late. He misplayed a foul pop during the loss on Saturday and did the same in this one. Only the second act was ruled an error, and it immediately hurt. Given a second chance, Adam Jones singled. He then went from first to third on a stolen base and throwing error by Saltalamacchia and eventually scored.

Add in the passed ball Saturday that led to Aaron Cook getting spiked and you have a pretty poor couple of days behind the plate for Saltalamacchia.

Wrong field: It was not until the top of the 10th that either right fielder had a putout. Ryan Sweeney caught the elusive fly off the bat of Adam Jones. Baltimore's right fielder, Nick Markakis, did not catch one until the 13th inning.