Rapid Reaction: Braves 4, Red Sox 1

June, 22, 2012

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox were winners of five in a row, had been swinging hot bats and got to face a guy on Friday night in Jair Jurrjens who was returning after a stint in the minors to correct his 0-2, 9.37-ERA start.

It looked like the recipe for more fun at Fenway Park. Jurrjens wasn't interested in a party.

The heretofore struggling right-hander limited Boston, which entered the game ranked second in baseball in runs scored, to one hit through the first seven innings of a 4-1 win for the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a three-game series. That one hit, which came in the first inning, was a soft grounder by Adrian Gonzalez to a vacated third base left open when the shift was put on.

From Innings 2 through 7 the Sox got two runners on, one by way of a walk and another when Jurrjens plunked Will Middlebrooks in the bum, possibly to even the score from a Jon Lester hit batter the prior inning. Doubles by Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava in the eighth got Boston on the board and chased Jurrjens, whose ERA fell by almost three runs.

As the saying goes, you're only as good as your next day's starting pitcher. Or in the case of Boston on Friday, your opponent's.

Four-feit: For whatever reason, Lester has had wild splits from inning to inning this year. He owns a 2.70 ERA over the first two innings and an 8.68 mark over the next two. His ERA for the fourth inning jumped to 9.64 after giving up a pair in the fourth of this one, two runs that proved decisive. Opponents are hitting .322 (19-for-59) with four home runs and six doubles against him in that frame.

Lester's ERA is 1.08 in Innings 5 and 6, and then it shoots up to 6.35 over the final three innings. Talk about a roller coaster.

Success in the seventh this time: That seventh-inning ERA was at 9.82 before Lester escaped a jam to put up a zero against the Braves, and he did so in somewhat dramatic fashion.

Martin Prado led off the inning with a double, his third hit off Lester. He moved to third on a grounder to first, and the Sox elected to walk Dan Uggla. On his 118th and final pitch, Lester got Freddie Freeman to hit into a 3-6-1 double play that kept Boston's deficit at three runs.

The double play was the only real highlight of the game for the home team until Nava's RBI double gave the fans a little life.

Bard struggles again: The pregame news from Fenway was rather ordinary. The featured item was the beginning of Carl Crawford's rehab in Florida on Saturday. News down I-95 was a bit more notable, as it was confirmed that Daniel Bard would focus his energies entirely on a return to the Boston bullpen.

The news was not shocking, as Bard had been limited to one- or two-inning relief stints since being demoted to Pawtucket. Still, the official-ness of it all does eliminate any lingering thoughts that he might return to the rotation. However, Bard is not even ready to return to the bullpen just yet, as evidenced by his second straight rocky outing for the PawSox.

Bard entered the seventh inning Friday to protect a 3-2 lead against Louisville. He allowed a game-tying solo homer, hit a batter and also gave up a single. This follows up an outing in which he uncorked two wild pitches, both with runners at third, to lose a lead at Syracuse on Wednesday.

Third-base drama: Let's just imagine that Kevin Youkilis gets traded Saturday and Middlebrooks officially becomes the starting third baseman on June 23, 2012. If so, the definitive shift from one Red Sox third baseman to the next would come exactly 30 years after Carney Lansford sprained his ankle, opening the door for a 24-year-old call-up named Wade Boggs to get into the starting lineup in the hot corner.

It would be quite a coincidence if a possible (probable?) Youkilis trade took place in the next day or so. It would be downright eerie if Middlebrooks gets 3,000 hits and wins five batting titles.

Another blast from the past: When Boggs made his big splash, Roger Clemens was still pitching at the University of Texas. As far as we know, only one of them was near their old club Friday night.

Clemens was spotted sitting in the first row of the Monster Seats and shown on the big screen after the third inning. As Elton John's "Rocket Man" played, just as it did during those Clemens warm-ups back in the day, the freshly acquitted Clemens was given a reaction that seemed to contain more boos than cheers.

Minutes later, Freeman ripped a single to right to begin the fourth. Take note of Freddie's last name as we complete the Clemens portion of this piece.



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