MINNEAPOLIS – The Red Sox have certainly used the last week wisely when it comes to turning around perception.
The Sox closed out their three-game trip to Target Field with a 5-1 win over the Twins, sweeping the series and extending their win streak to five games. The game was complete with a three-hour rain delay, leaving a couple of hundred people in the stands when the teams came back out for the home half of the seventh inning.
It was the Red Sox’ fourth series sweep of the season, having managed just three sweeps in all of 2012.
John Farrell’s team, which has now won six of their seven road series, was paced this time by starter John Lackey. Lackey rebounded from his worst outing of the season – a five-run, nine-hit performance that stretched just 4 1/3 innings – to limit the Twins to just one hit over six innings, striking out five and not walking a batter.
The Red Sox starter was set to go beyond just six frames, having thrown 84 pitches, but the rain came, forcing the players off the field as Lackey was warming up for the seventh inning.
The bizarre day was capped in the ninth inning when Dustin Pedroia hit his second home run of the season, with this one being propelled off left fielder Josh Willingham’s wrist (jumping to catch the ball) and over the fence for a two-run blast. The pitch Pedroia hi was a neck-high, 92 mph fastball from Minnesota reliever Jared Burton.
Every Red Sox player, except Pedro Ciriaco, collected at least one hit.
Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ 27th win (27-17):
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- Shane Victorino made his presence felt immediately upon returning from a back ailment. The outfielder – who was filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and in the leadoff spot – singled in his first at-bat and walked in the third. The free pass ultimately led to the Sox’ second run, coming in on Dustin Pedroia’s roller to third. Victorino also stole his fourth base of the season.
- Will Middlebrooks kept moving in the right direction, launching a solo homer in the second for the Sox’ first run. The third baseman came into the game hitting .286 with eight extra-base hits in his last nine games.
- Mike Napoli helped the Sox’ collect their third run, punctuating back-to-back-to-back singles in the fifth inning for his 35th RBI
- Pedroia extended his hit streak to 11 games thanks to a fifth-inning single. He entered the game hitting .475 (19-for-40) over the course of his stretch, having managed multiple hit outings in seven of the 10 games.
- Reliever Andrew Miller continued to impress, this time coming on after the rain-delay to pitch a perfect seventh inning. In his last 13 outings, Miller has only turned in one appearance in which he surrendered a run, striking out 17 and walking just two.
- Koji Uehara got into some trouble in the eighth, loading the bases. But the righty proceeded to strikeout Joe Mauer to kill the threat, leading to an enormous embrace for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia just outside the dugout along the subsequent round of high-intensity high-fives.
WHAT WENT WRONG
- David Ortiz wasn’t able to score from second on Daniel Nava’s single to deep center field with one out in the fifth inning, holding up while waiting to see if Aaron Hicks was going to make the grab. The ball, however, went off the outfielder’s glove, bouncing to the wall and leaving the Red Sox with the bases loaded. It would be the last batter Minnesota starter Pedro Hernandez would face, with the Red Sox leaving the frame without any more runs after a Will Middlebrooks’ pop-up and Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounder to first.
- Lackey saw his no-hitter broken up when Trevor Plouffe lined a double into left field to kick off the fifth inning. It was the first time since July 22, 2010 he had gotten through the first four innings without surrendering a hit, with the previous occasion before that coming against the Red Sox in ’08.
- The Twins scored their first run thanks to an errant throw from Pedro Ciriaco on what should have been an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. The ball sailed wide of first baseman Napoli (deflecting into the midsection of baserunner Chris Parmelee, who was on the ground recovering for a bit), allowing Plouffe to come in from third. It made it 3-1 Red Sox. It marked the 13th unearned run of the season for the Red Sox, five of which have come with Lackey pitching.
- Through seven innings, the Red Sox were just 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position, having stranded eight.