Rapid Reaction: A's 5, Red Sox 3

May, 1, 2012

BOSTON -- Although they made a lot of noise in the ninth inning, the 2012 Red Sox remain in search of a winning record. Including the season-opener, they are now 0-3 in games in which they had a chance to push their record above .500. And since scoring 11 straight runs in a span of three innings in the opener of the series with Oakland, Boston has been outscored 10-3 over a 13-inning span by the Athletics.

Two of those runs came in the too-little, too-late showing in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 5-3 loss.

On a chilly night at Fenway Park (it was 46 and drizzling when the game began), the winning formula for the A’s was simple: Jarrod Parker completely outclassed Felix Doubront in a matchup of promising young pitchers.

Felix fizzles: A night after Clay Buchholz produced an uneven start, Doubront did the same. Doubront recorded six of his first eight outs via a strikeout and had a career-high eight Ks through four innings. Unfortunately, that was as long as he would last. Doubront’s pitch count was high from the start (in addition to two walks he had six other three-ball counts) and he fell apart in a four-run Oakland fourth.

Doubront shows flashes of brilliance, but he has yet to show an ability to go deep into games. In eight career starts, he has lasted six innings just twice. Those relatively lengthy outings came in his last two starts, but the progress made there was somewhat nullified when the A’s -- who entered the night ranked last in the majors with a .280 team on-base percentage -- methodically worked him over.

Punt it away: The impatient portion of Red Sox Nation has been screaming for Triple-A standout Will Middlebrooks to get the call to spell an injured Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox still are assessing Youkilis' situation and hope to have him back soon enough. Hence the less splashy move to bring up Jose Iglesias as an extra body on the left side of the infield; if Middlebrooks is brought up it will be to start.

That leaves Nick Punto to fight the wars of the hot corner. He’s been pretty good there, aside from a dropped popup Monday night, but has offered little resistance at the plate. Punto is hitless in his last 13 at-bats while striking out seven times.

Punto does have six walks in that stretch, including one in the ninth-inning rally, but that won’t quiet the masses itching for a glimpse of the hot-hitting Middlebrooks.

Was it a decoy? Youkilis emerged on the top steps of the dugout in the ninth inning with a helmet and a bat, seemingly in preparation for a pinch-hit appearance. However, Lars Anderson was left in to face a lefty and Youkilis was not seen again. Perhaps it was a bluff by manager Bobby Valentine. Or, perhaps Youkilis could not get loose. He’s missed three straight games with a sore back.

Rich returns: The last time we saw Rich Hill on the mound at Fenway Park we were reminded of what can happen when you throw a baseball hard over and over again. Sometimes your arm disagrees with that awkward action, as was the case when Hill writhed in pain after delivering a pitch against Chicago on June 1.

Hill underwent Tommy John surgery soon thereafter and completed an impressive rehabilitation by making his return on Sunday. Hill made his first appearance at home since that painful pitch last year and struck out three in 1 2/3 innings Tuesday. He has now allowed just one run in 14 1/3 innings as a member of the Red Sox.

Like night and day: There was a time not long ago when the sight of the Boston bullpen door opening prompted a gag reflex in living rooms around New England. Very quietly, the Red Sox relievers have settled into a dominant stretch.

Since April 23, two days after the bullpen blew a 9-1 lead over the Yankees, it has allowed two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings pitched.

Turn back the clock: To 1936. That’s what the Sox and A’s will do Wednesday night when the teams wear throwback uniforms to mark the year that the Athletics, then in Philadelphia, sold Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx to Boston.

Wearing special uniforms to honor a 76-year-old transaction -- such is this year of celebration at Fenway Park.



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