Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 7, Marlins 5

June, 19, 2012

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was asked prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Miami Marlins what he thought about the team’s 14-19 mark at home, an uncharacteristic record for the Fenway Park denizens.

Valentine called it “good news.” All that means to him is that there are many more home wins on the horizon. And if there are many more home wins on the horizon, one has to think that the team’s nine-game homestand, which began Tuesday, will be a rather positive one.

The nine-gamer is the second-longest homestand of the season for the Red Sox, who took the opener 7-5 to move above .500 for the first time since June 7. Home runs by David Ortiz, Kelly Shoppach and Cody Ross provided the punch and the bullpen did what it does as four relievers shut down the Marlins.

Since April 23, the day that the bullpen began to dominate, Sox relievers have a 1.98 ERA, tops in the majors in that time.

Clay Buchholz had his ERA jump to 5.53 after giving up five runs in six innings, but improved to 8-2.

With every positive comes a negative: Or so it seems with this year’s version of the Red Sox. That may be the case as Dustin Pedroia left after seven innings, replaced by Nick Punto at second base. Pedroia, who has been playing with torn muscle in his right thumb, was seen shaking the hand following an at-bat.

Good thing you missed me last time: There was a bit of a buzz when Ortiz was left out of the lineup in Miami last week when Mark Buehrle was on the mound. Although it was a National League park, thus robbing the Sox of the designated hitter, Ortiz was 20-for-58 (.345) with two home runs against the Marlins lefty. Kevin Youkilis, who was given the start at first base that night, was just 3-for-14 (.214) and added to that line with an 0-for-3 effort.

Ortiz was quick to remind Buehrle who owns their matchup, smashing a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning and singling opposite the shift in the third.

Ortiz has four home runs in his last eight games and 395 in his career. His next homer will tie him with Joe Carter for 52nd on the all-time list.

Be on your toes: Even during his recent hot stretch, Buchholz has had some issues with hit batters. When he plunked Giancarlo Stanton in the third inning, it was the fourth man he had hit in four starts this month and gave him eight for the year, tied with Chicago’s Gavin Floyd for the MLB lead.

It’s just par for the course for Boston. Since the start of the 2011 season, Red Sox pitchers have hit 124 batters. Toronto is second in that category with 104. Relatively speaking, that’s not even close. Much of this is because of an aggressive approach on the mound by Boston pitchers. Some of it is the staff’s common use of the cutter, which can run in on the hands of hitters. A lot of it is simply a reflection of poor pitching.

Another day, another new outfield: The trio of Cody Ross in left, Ryan Kalish in center and Adrian Gonzalez in right represented the 26th outfield combination that the Red Sox have used this season.

Kid Kalish: The Sox may one day call Kalish their regular center fielder (if Jacoby Ellsbury leaves) or regular right fielder (unless J.D. Drew comes back), but there may still be a growing pain or two. Kalish has a reputation for being rather bold in the outfield, as evidenced by some highlight-reel performances in his brief 2010 stint with the club. However, that is one reason why he has been banged up over the last year or so. One can almost forgive him for what occurred in the top of the fifth.

With two on and two out, Logan Morrison ripped one toward the 379-foot sign in left-center field. Kalish made an early decision to play the carom, but likely regretted that call when the ball bounced just a few feet up the wall, leading to two runs.

It is a bit more difficult to forgive Kalish for what happened in the seventh, unless he was blinded by the lights.

Kalish drifted back on a Jose Reyes drive but had plenty of room and time to snag this one. However, it caromed off his glove for a three-base error. There may have been more fear of the wall at play.

The 24-year-old nearly misplayed a drive later in that inning before recovering to snag the final out and strand Reyes at third. He ended the top of the eighth with a running grab in the triangle in deep center.

Quite a reward: One of the more exciting plays of the game from a Red Sox perspective was Will Middlebrooks’ bust-it-out-of-the-box RBI double in the bottom of the sixth. What did Middlebrooks get for the hustle play that gave Boston a 7-5 lead? A quick hook.

Daniel Nava came on as a pinch runner, ending the night for the young slugger and giving Valentine a chance to get his best defensive lineup in for the final three innings. Not a poor decision by Valentine. It was just odd to see someone yanked immediately after a great display of hustle.

Sacrificial lambs: In a span of six batters in the fifth and sixth, the Sox had three sacrifices, two sac bunts and one sac fly. The first two, a bunt by Pedroia and a fly to right by Adrian Gonzalez, led to one run. The third, a sac bunt by Ross in the sixth, did not, but it did give the club an AL-leading 21 sacrifice bunts on the season to go along with their league-leading 28 sac flies.

And that’s all that really counts, right?

Florida, Miami, it’s all the same: This is an awkward statistic, but bear with us. Boston has won the opener of its last five series at home against the Marlins by a combined score of 55-26. Of course, much of that lopsidedness came in 2003, when the Sox pounded Florida in the first game of a Fenway Park series by a score of 25-8.

That outburst represents Boston’s second-highest scoring total in franchise history.



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