Sloppy Defense Spells Doom as Twins Take 3 of 4 From Red Sox

Pedroia lunges for an errant throw that propels Twins to victory.

Pedroia lunges for an errant throw that propels Twins to victory.

In a game in which John Lackey’s pitching was outstanding, it was his defense that made him pay on a fittingly damp night at Fenway.  Lackey had arguably his best stuff in over two years, but a wild throw on what would’ve been an inning-ending double-play in the sixth opened the flood-gates for the Minnesota Twins, and a stellar bullpen held on for the 5-3 victory over Boston.

Lackey began his outing in impressive fashion, striking out the side in order in the first on just 11 pitches (10 for strikes).  Lackey allowed only two singles into the fifth inning against a Twins team that had accumulated 15 runs on 20 hits on Wednesday night.  The Sox offense managed to grab a 2-0 lead for Lackey on an RBI single by Dustin Pedroia in the third, and a Stephen Drew two-out RBI hit an inning later.

The fifth inning was the first test of the night for Lackey as right-fielder Oswaldo Arcia tripled into the right-field corner.  Center-fielder Aaron Hicks followed that up with a double into deep right that cut the Sox lead in half.  With his back against the wall for the first time of the night, Lackey pitched unlike the Lackey he last showed in 2011, as he struck out Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier to slam the door.

In the sixth inning, and with one out, the Twins had Joe Mauer on second and Justin Morneau at first after a walk when Trevor Plouffe grounded a ball back to Lackey.  Even with plenty of time, Lackey made an off-balance throw to second that sailed past a diving Dustin Pedroia, and into center-field, scoring Mauer and tying the game at two.  It was a frustrating moment for Lackey and the Red Sox, as the play assuredly would have resulted in a double-play and a scoreless inning.

Said Lackey after the game, “I gotta make that one play and win the game. I just didn’t have good grip on it.”

Lack “gotta make that one play and win the game.  Didnt have good grip on it.

It was clear in the post-game that manager John Farrell was pleased with Lackey’s effort overall, and lamented that just that one play hurt the Sox in the inning.

“That errant throw opened the door for them.  He just got turned around the wrong way, outside of that, I thought John was very good tonight.”

Following the game tying error, Ryan Doumit connected on a line-drive to right-fielder Shane Victorino, which he snared and immediately gunned towards home, hoping to catch Morneau tagging from third.  The play was close, but unfortunately for Boston, David Ross’ swipe tag came up empty and Minnesota had its first lead of the night.  Farrell argued, but not all that aggressively, as Ross himself didn’t believe he made the tag.  Arcia added a two-run homer on the next pitch, and the nightmare inning ended on that note with the Twins holding the 5-2 advantage – and they never looked back.

Boston would manage to tack on a run in the home-half of the sixth as Daniel Nava singled home Mike Napoli, but the 5-3 deficit was as close as they’d come as the American League’s best bullpen siphoned all the life out of the Red Sox bats that had managed nine hits, including three doubles, off of starter Kevin Correia (albeit with just three runs).  The Twins relievers combined to pitch 3 2/3 hitless innings while striking out seven.  Jacoby Ellsbury did manage to lead off the ninth with a walk, but closer Glen Perkins struck out Victorino and Pedroia on very close pitches before David Ortiz grounded out to end it.

With the Sox and Orioles both losing on Thursday night and the Yankees taking their game, 3-1, over the Rockies, there is no a three-way tie for the division lead.  Jon Lester will try to put the Sox back over the top Friday night when the last place Blue Jays make their first visit to Fenway Park this season.

Inside the Game

-Jacoby Ellsbury is just 2-21 over his last five games with one XBH and no stolen bases. (Drops avergae from .290 to .263)

-The Sox defense has gone from impressive to horrendous rather quickly as they have amassed 10 errors over their last six games.

-For good news, middle infielders Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew combined to go 16-33 with two homers and seven RBI

-David Ross and Will Middlebrooks returned to action following a scary collision on Tuesday night that pulled both from the game.

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