After an awful 3-7 road trip, the Boston Red Sox happily returned home to Fenway Park Monday night and captured a 1-0 victory over the surging Minnesota Twins. The win improves Boston’s home record to 32-10 on the season, the best in the American League.
Manny Ramirez broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the 8th inning off of Twins relief pitcher Brian Bass (3-3) that scored Dustin Pedroia for the games only run. Pedroia had reached base with a wall ball double to left which extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games. During the streak he is hitting .485 (32-66) and has raised his season average from .282 when the streak began up to .311.
“A heck of a baseball game,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think both teams had lots of opportunities all the way through. They finally came through and got a hit.”
Starting pitchers Dice-K Matsuzaka and Scott Baker kept their teams in the game, each pitching well enough to earn a victory even though neither factored into the decision. Matsuzaka pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing six hits, walking three and striking out five. Baker allowed five hits, walked two and struck out seven in seven innings of work.
“Obviously, with them playing at home, they play very well here,” Baker said. “I gave it everything I had. We made some great defensive plays, allowing me to continue to pitch and pitch into the seventh inning.”
The outing for Matsuzaka was his first since coming off the DL that he was able to make it through more then five innings on the hill.
“Of all our starting pitchers, I’m the only one who hasn’t been able to get really deep into the games,” he said through a translator. “So what I’ve been trying to do is go deep into the game and help out the bullpen.”
Dice-K was relived by fellow countryman Hideki Okajima who was able to escape a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning. After walking Justin Morneau to load the bases, Okajima (2-2) was able to get pinch hitter Craig Monroe to pop out in foul territory and then retire Delmon Young on a fielder’s choice to end the threat and pick up his second victory on the season
Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth inning for the final three outs and recorded his 26th save on the season. The loss ended a five-game winning streak for the Twins and also snapped the Red Sox two-game losing skid.
Tonight, Boston will try to make it two in a row against the Twins when they send LHP Jon Lester (7-3, 3.21 ERA) to the mound to face off against RHP Nick Blackburn (7-4, 3.78 ERA). In Lester’s last start, he tossed a complete game shutout against New York at Yankee Stadium while Blackburn is coming off of an impressive seven inning effort in which he allowed only three hits and no runs in a win against Detroit.
In other Sox news, DH David Ortiz took live batting practice for the first time since going on the DL on May 31st before Monday night’s game. The slugger said that he ‘felt good’ but a time table has not been placed on his expected return.
The Sox also optioned RHP Justin Masterson back down to Triple-A Pawtucket to recalled 1B Jeff Bailey for the remainder of the series. The Sox plan on converting Masterson into a relief pitcher now that Clay Buchholtz is ready to return to the starting rotation after having missed almost two months spending time on the DL and in Triple-A.
Buchholtz will get the start on Friday July 11th when the Orioles are in town. It’s no coincidence that the Sox choose to reactivate their prized rookie vs. Baltimore because last September Buchholtz hurled a no-hitter at Fenway against the Orioles.
Tickets are still available for the remaining games of the homestand against Minnesota tonight and tomorrow and then also for the weekend series against Baltimore.