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Red Sox get aggressive to pummel Chen, O's

Posted by David D'Onofrio  August 28, 2013 02:00 AM

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When the Red Sox faced Orioles' lefty Wei-Yin Chen back in April, they encountered him with their typical approach. He wasn't giving them much, so they grinded out at-bats and made him work, eventually wearing him down until he finally broke and surrendered a three-run homer to Daniel Nava in the seventh. That blast came on his 107th pitch, to the 24th batter he faced. That's 4.46 pitches per plate appearance.

Since then, Chen has put together a decent season for himself. An oblique injury sidelined him for a while, but he returned to Fenway Park on Tuesday night sporting a 3.19 earned run average, his success built on throwing strikes and challenging hitters by pitching to contact.

So, it seems, the Red Sox accepted that challenge -- seemingly altering their approach to be a bit more aggressive in big spots. And it worked, as Chen left charged with a career-worst eight earned runs over just 4.2 innings, and Boston blasted its way to a 13-2 win.

This season the Twins and Red Sox are the only teams in all of baseball that are averaging more than 4 pitches per plate appearance -- must be something in that Fort Myers water -- but Tuesday night the Sox didn't bother to wait around. Rather they forced Chen to spend just 80 pitches on the 22 batters he faced, an average of 3.73 per, and carried that aggressiveness forward against the bullpen, too, seeing a below-average 3.88 pitches per plate appearance for the night.

David Ortiz's ice-breaking sacrifice fly came on the second pitch he saw, as did Jonny Gomes' two-run double in the fourth and Shane Victorino's three-run homer in the fifth. Victorino hit the third pitch when he plated two more with a late double, and in the end the Sox wound up bringing home 13 of their 18 baserunners. They left only five on base and went 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and indication of the way that, when they got themselves in position to separate themselves from the Orioles, and O's pitchers obliged, the Sox attacked.

"Some of the pitches that he threw, that we hit, were actually good pitches," said Dustin Pedroia, who watched Chen throw two balls in the dirt to get ahead 3-0, then pounced on a 3-1 count for a two-run double that was his third hit. "It was just one of those games that we were on. He's got great stuff, knows how to pitch."

The Red Sox, though knew just how to approach him.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
Red Sox 13, Orioles 2
Hitters
14-for-33, 4 BB, 9 K, 5 2B, 3 HR
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF 3-for-5, 3 R, K, 2B: He was 1-for his last-16 when he stung a single to center in the fourth, then followed with another single and a wall-ball double. The two runs he scored gave him 82 for the year, and put him on pace to finish with an even 100.
Shane Victorino, RF 3-for-3, 4 R, 7 RBI, BB, HBP, 2B, 2 HR: Career homers 100 and 101 marked his second-career multi-homer game, and his first since 2008. Both came from the right-handed batter's box, as have eight of his 11 blasts this season. Historically he's more balanced, actually with 52 batting lefty and 49 batting righty, which likely speaks to the season-long state of his balky hamstring.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B 3-for-5, R, 2 RBI, 2 2B: His first-inning double would've been out of most parks, but nevertheless it began it second consecutive three-hit game. He's got eight hits over his last three contests. Last time he did that was June 23-26 -- which began a two-week stretch where he hit .447.
David Ortiz, DH 0-for-3, RBI, IBB, SF, K: He had a sac fly and an intentional walk, though he and Drew were the only Sox starters not to register a hit, as his skid reached 0-for-13 dating back to the Sox' last homestand. He wasn't running particularly well on Gomes' double, either, so his health may be worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.
Jonny Gomes, LF 1-for-5, 2 RBI, 3 K, 2B: The team's best hitter with two outs and runners in scoring position delivered the knockout blow in that very situation, crushing a bases-loaded double off the wall in center after the Orioles elected to intentionally walk Ortiz trailing. A 6-1 lead became an 8-1 lead quite quickly.
Mike Napoli, 1B 1-for-5, R, RBI, 2 K, HR: Upon contact the only question about the first baseman's no-doubter off Chen was whether it would travel farther than his Sunday blast. (ESPN says Sunday won by five feet, 437-432.) Either way, when it did land Napoli had homers in consecutive games for the first time since April 21-22.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C 1-for-3, R, K: The run scored was the eighth in seven games for Saltalamacchia, who yielded to David Ross in the seventh. Next time he crosses the plate he'll match his career high of 55 runs scored, and with two more hits he'll reach triple digits for the first time.
Stephen Drew, SS 0-for-2, R, 2 BB, K: There was some chatter before the game about why Drew (and his .198 BA against southpaws) was in the lineup over Xander Bogaerts against a lefty starter. However, Drew worked a couple of walks against lefties, and made a sterling defensive play to take a hit away from Adam Jones.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B 2-for-4, R, K: The third-inning single that put him aboard ahead of Victorino's first homer came on an 0-and-2 count, as he pulled his hands inside the pitch and whacked a looping liner into right-center. His second single came with two strikes, too, muscling the ball to center despite breaking his bat on a full count.
Pitchers
9 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, BB, 8 K
Felix Doubront, SP 6.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, BB, HBP, 7 K: He responded beautifully to a rough patch, retiring 14 of 16 after walking in a run, and leaving to a standing ovation. That seems to be a key for Doubront: He tends to lose it temporarily, but if he can recover quickly he is usually able to salvage his start like he and his lively fastball (his seven Ks were all swinging, all on fastballs) did Tuesday.
Matt Thornton, RP 0.1 IP: His first appearance after coming off the disabled list began and ended with a soft Steve Pearce comebacker, the reintroduction lasting all of three pitches (all strikes).
Drake Britton, RP 2 IP, K: The big lead made a good spot for the rookie's first work in nine days, and he handled it well. He navigated the first inning flawlessly, needing just seven pitches, then followed that with another perfect frame highlighted by his gassing Nick Markakis with 94 mph heat up and in.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Dave D'Onofrio is a sports journalist who focuses on the Red Sox and Patriots, and also writes Boston.com's "Off The Field" blog about what Boston's sportsmen do away from the More »

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