MINNEAPOLIS -- In the bottom of the eighth inning last night, the Red Sox behind as this game would end, 8-1, two fans hopped the fence, one of whom decided to run around the bases, beginning at second. He dived into home, popped up, and immediately was taken out by the Sox' thin, blond ballboy, who wrestled at Minnetonka High outside Minneapolis at 160 pounds and played rugby at the University of North Dakota.
``Rounding third there weren't any guards around," recounted 25-year-old Nate Reese, who was the picture of humility postgame as he cleaned cleats in the shadow of David Ortiz. ``I figured I'd hit him."
The ballboy, it seemed, was around the plate as much as anyone who pitched in a Sox uniform last night.
Matt Clement, in 4 2/3 innings, threw 45 balls among his 91 pitches, a seemingly unsightly total until Jermaine Van Buren (24 pitches, 14 balls) followed. (``I guess I set the precedent with the little bit of control problem I had," Clement said.) Clement's major mistake was a two-run homer, Van Buren's mistakes the single and three walks he issued in the sixth, when he walked in a run and exited with the bases loaded, handing off to Manny Delcarmen, whose 3-and-1 fastball Justin Morneau sent soaring to the opposite field for a grand slam.
Clement, who hadn't pitched in nine days and had pitched just once in 15 days, will return home to Boston this morning for an MRI of his pitching shoulder. The righthander, who is 5-5 with a 6.61 ERA, suffered last night through the same issues that plagued him in his previous start, June 4 at Detroit. ``I started to feel the same way I felt in Detroit," he said. ``It's on the side of my biceps and shoulder, I guess like a dead feeling, not like a dead arm. A dead arm I would pitch through. Something that slows me up and I guess scares my body enough that it affects the way I throw.
``It's tough to go out there and pitch and not know what your arm's going to do each time. I honestly don't think it's anything serious. Hopefully, getting it checked [today], if everything's clear that will give me a little peace of mind."
At this point, though, it's hard to believe that anything can change between now and Monday, when Clement is scheduled to pitch again.
One statistic above all encapsulates that his arm and stuff has lost its snap: Clement, in 235 career games through May 24, had failed to record a strikeout in a game just twice. In his past three games he has failed to strike out anybody in two of those games. This, realize, is a guy who twice blew away 13 in a game as a Chicago Cub and three times whiffed 12 in a game.
His line: 4 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 6 walks, 0 strikeouts, 1 home run, 1 hit batsmen. In his past three starts he has walked 10 and whiffed five. For the season, he has nearly as many walks (38) as K's (43). He has dealt with an alarmingly high number of base runners -- 121 in 65 1/3 innings.
At one point in the third inning he had thrown 16 pitches to four batters, 13 of those balls, walking the bases loaded while recording one out. To that juncture Clement had thrown 59 pitches, 35 of them balls. But, unconscionably, Torii Hunter swung at the next pitch, the first he saw with the bases full, and grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Clement, through the third, was down only 2-0, amazing because he had had to deal with seven base runners, five of whom had reached on walks. He hurt himself by walking Hunter leading off the second because Jason Kubel, who had launched a walkoff grand slam a night earlier, crushed what looked like a hanging slider into Section 211 (the Metrodome's second level) in right-center.
That was the only scoring until the bottom of the fourth, when Luis Castillo doubled off the wall in right, scoring Rondell White, whom Clement had hit with a pitch.
Coco Crisp got one of those runs back in the top of the fifth, homering leading off the inning on a 1-and-0 fastball that Brad Radke threw down the middle of the plate. Crisp's second homer of the year gave him his seventh RBI of the season on the same night Terry Francona swapped Crisp out of his leadoff spot into Kevin Youkilis's No. 8 slot in the batting order. That pulled the Sox to 3-1.
But the Twins tacked on five in a sixth inning in which they batted around despite just two hits. Van Buren's inning went like this: single, walk, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk, bases-loaded walk. That forced in a run and forced Francona to go to Delcarmen.
Francona, before last night's game, talked about the need for a reliever to pitch against lefties and mentioned Delcarmen as a leading candidate. But Delcarmen, who had allowed only four hits in 17 at-bats against lefties (a .235 average), fell behind, 3 and 1, to Morneau.
``He jumped on the next fastball and cleared the bases," Delcarmen said succinctly. ``Can't fall behind and expect to get somebody out."
Morneau's 15th homer sailed out to left, only a row or two over the short wall, for an 8-1 lead. This came a night after Kubel's walkoff slam off Julian Tavarez. The Twins, before last night, hadn't hit grand slams on consecutive nights since July 1972. The two grand slams -- both hit by lefthanded hitters off righthanded pitchers -- underscored the Sox' need for a lefthander, something they don't have in the bullpen.
``Sometimes with youth you don't see the same pitcher with the bases loaded as you do when there aren't any men on base," Francona said. ``I love this kid [Delcarmen] to death. I think he's going to be really good. That's part of growing up as a major league player or pitcher, learning to throw your pitches in a tight spot as opposed to nobody on. He's learning. He will."
The Sox also paid for leaving men on base early. They loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but Trot Nixon popped out to short and Jason Varitek flied to right. Varitek also left the bases loaded in the eighth, but it was 8-1 by that point.