The good news was that Boston took an early lead Thursday night against the Twins. The bad news was Minnesota’s bats, sleepy up until their series at Fenway Park, stayed awake and although not necessarily hot, were timely enough to take advantage of Boston’s defensive miscues. The was result was a 5-3 Boston loss, their sixth in nine games in the month of May.
The game started out feeling a little like the real baseball season had begun. After a strong April start, Boston was clinging to a first place tie with Baltimore and the Yankees in hot pursuit. John Lackey was on the bump, tasked with turning the tide and helping the team rebound from a 15-8 thrashing at the hands of the Twins Wednesday night. And it looked pretty good for four innings.
Boston’s bats awoke temporarily in the third and fourth innings, each time with two outs, allowing them to grab an early lead. A double by Shane Victorino followed by a Dustin Pedroia single to score Victorino in the third put the Sox up 1-0. In the fourth Daniel Nava singled, took second on a Will Middlebrooks‘ ground out and scored on a Stephen Drew single to make it 2-0 Boston.
Lackey, meanwhile cruised through his first four innings, keeping his pitch count low and Twins batters off the bases. In the fifth Lackey was hit hard but managed to give up only one run before retiring the side. Oswaldo Arcia tripled off the center field wall just inches from Jacoby Ellsbury‘s glove and was knocked in on an Aaron Hicks double.
In the sixth it all came apart. Joe Mauer singled to lead off the inning. Lackey walked Justin Morneau after getting Josh Willingham to fly out to Ellsbury. With one out and two on, Trevor Plouffe tapped a sure thing double play ball to Lackey who pivoted and threw the ball way to the ride field side of Pedroia and into center field, allowing Mauer to score, Morneau to advance to third and Plouffe to reach safely.
After getting Ryan Doumit to sac fly, scoring Morneau, Arcia rocketed a Lackey offering into the Red Sox bullpen in right field to make it 5-2.
Boston got one back in the sixth when Nava singled to score Mike Napoli but that was as good – or as ugly as the case my be – as it got. Game, set, match – Twins.
The Sox ship of state after such smooth April sailing is now listing badly and navigating in any way possible not to run aground. Boston’s once vaunted starting and bullpen pitching has faltered, their run production has dropped off and their defense especially has tanked. Boston has plummeted to 20th in fielding percentage in the majors, committing seven of their 20 errors on the season during the four game series with the Twins. They have lost six of their first nine games in May and three out of four to a team who just popped over the .500 mark thanks to their four games in Boston.
Baltimore lost to the for real Kansas City Royals (1/2 game behind the Tigers in the AL Central) and the Yankees beat the Rockies 3-1 to create a three-way tie for first place in the AL East. Let the dog fight begin.
It was an ugly loss in a string of ugly play over the past week. The honeymoon is over. Mr. Farrell. What’s in your bag of tricks?