Red Sox eke out a win
MINNEAPOLIS - The Red Sox converted Triple A starter Alex Wilson into a reliever this week to prepare him for the majors. Veteran free agent Mike Gonzalez is under consideration and the possibility still exists that Daniel Bard could return to his old job in the late innings before too long.
But it may take more than that to fix the bullpen if the Red Sox are to contend this season. A major renovation is needed, not some spackling paste.
The Sox survived another round of bullpen roulette on Wednesday night, holding on to beat the Minnesota Twins, 7-6.
“We got a win. It’s what it’s all about at the end,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said.
To be sure, any victory is a good one for a team trying to get to .500. But this one illustrated again just how vulnerable the Sox are, even against a team like Minnesota that struggles to score runs.
Up 7-1 in the sixth inning, Clay Buchholz ran into trouble. Scott Atchison, Justin Thomas, and Matt Albers followed him to the mound and by the time they were done, the Twins had scored five runs.
Vicente Padilla and Franklin Morales quieted the Twins, each throwing a perfect inning. Alfredo Aceves was called on to close and the chaos started again.
Trevor Plouffe walked with one out before pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit singled. Ben Revere shattered his bat and grounded to first. Aceves then hit Alexi Casilla in the foot with his next pitch to load the bases.
But Aceves struck out Denard Span to pick up his fourth save.
Hopefully Valentine has a good medical plan given the stress that follows when his starter leaves the game.
“Insurance all paid up,’’ he said.
The Sox have won the first three games on a seven-game road trip that continues in Chicago Thursday. The sweep was their first since taking three games from the Seattle Mariners last July 22-24.
Buchholz (2-1) was an undeserving winner, propped up by an offense that scored seven runs in the first five innings. He allowed five runs on 10 hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. Still, Buchholz felt it was an improvement on his first three starts.
“That was really the first time I was able to locate some pitches down,’’ he said. “They didn’t really square up a lot of balls against me.’’
Minnesota started Liam Hendriks, a 23-year-old Australian who made his major league debut in September. The Red Sox worked him over for seven runs on nine hits over four innings.
It started in the first inning even through the Red Sox didn’t score. Hendriks needed 32 pitches to escape the inning, 15 to Adrian Gonzalez alone. Gonzalez fouled off nine two-strike pitches before grounding to shortstop.
Valentine felt the long at-bat helped lead to the Sox scoring four runs in the second inning. David Ortiz walked and Kevin Youkilis singled before Cody Ross had an RBI single and Mike Aviles a three-run homer to left. It was his second of the series and fourth on the season.
“It was a productive at-bat looking back at it,’’ Gonzalez said. “Any time the pitcher throws 32 pitches in an inning, that takes something out of him.’’
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has started to heat up, had a two-run single in the third inning. Dustin Pedroia (3 for 4) tripled to right-center and Gonzalez knocked a single into left field.
The Twins fielded what looked like a spring training lineup. Their last five hitters - Chris Parmelee, Plouffe, Sean Burroughs, Revere and Casilla - were 28 of 134 (.209) with no home runs and two RBIs.
Buchholz had problems early in the game, putting nine runners on base in the first four innings but giving up only one run as the Twins were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
After retiring six straight, Buchholz allowed one-out singles by Revere and Casilla in the sixth inning. After Span lined an RBI double to right field, Buchholz walked Jamey Carroll to load the bases and Valentine pulled him out of the game.
Atchison got Joe Mauer to ground back to the mound. But the ball deflected off Atchison’s foot and into center field for a two-run single.
In came Thomas, a rookie lefthander who has looked overmatched all season. His first pitch was a hanging slider that Justin Morneau drove to the wall in right-center for an RBI double. Thomas then hit Parmelee in the head to load the bases.
“It just rode up on him. I was trying to go up, but not like that,’’ Thomas said. “I feel terrible.’’
Parmelee left the game but returned to the dugout.
Thomas has faced 25 batters this season, 13 have reached base. With lefthander Rich Hill expected to be activated off the disabled list in the coming days Thomas may not be on the roster for much longer.
Albers gave up an RBI single to center by Plouffe on his first pitch. But he got Burroughs to ground into a double play to finally end the inning.
“I jammed him and that was exactly what we needed,’’ Albers said. “Just getting out of that inning with a lead seemed huge. We figured out how to win. That’s better than the alternative.’’