Owners John Henry and Tom Werner returned from the Olympics in London Saturday night, but they did not witness any gold-medal performances from the team they own.
As dramatically as Pedro Ciriaco had stroked an eighth-inning pinch-hit homer to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead that became 4-2 on a Cody Ross RBI single, Alfredo Aceves gave it all away and then some when he served up a three-run homer to Joe Mauer in the ninth as the Twins went on to a 6-4 win before a stunned crowd of 37,914 at Fenway.
Henry and general manager Ben Cherington met behind closed door with manager Bobby Valentine after the tough loss. Valentine eventually emerged looking somewhat beleaguered and then left. But sources indicate that the meeting was positive and that Henry showed support.
“We had one great job by Aceves in the eighth and then leakage in the ninth,” Valentine said.
Aceves had been pinched on a 2-2 pitch to Mauer by homeplate umpire David Rackley. The replay showed the pitch was right on the outside corner for a strike. But the count ran to 3-2 and Aceves left one way too fat and Mauer powered it over the Monster.
“Why don’t you ask the umpire how much he missed the pitch before? Ask him,” said Aceves about how much he missed his location on the 3-2 pitch over the plate to Mauer. “It was a mistake and I also made a mistake on the next pitch.”
Aceves did a great job against tough hitters in the eighth, retiring Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit and pinch hitter Josh Willingham, the Twins’ biggest power threat. But he regretted giving up Morneau’s sacrifice fly to right.
“I tried to, but I couldn’t strike him [Morneau] out,” Aceves, now 2-7, lamented.
Valentine was grilled about why he didn’t pitch Craig Breslow in the eighth instead of Aceves. Or why not Breslow instead of Miller in the eighth. Miller has held lefthanded hitters to a .125 (8 for 64) average this season. He walked Denard Span, allowed an infield single to Ben Revere and walked Mauer, all lefthanded hitters.
“Andrew Miller has been terrific vs. lefthanders and just flying open a little too much. He didn’t have command of the strike zone,” Valentine said.
In answer to why he brought Aceves in for the eighth inning he said, “I was trying to get through the eighth with the least amount of damage. I thought he had a chance to keep the damage to a minimum. Breslow’s numbers against those guys aren’t good. I thought it worked perfectly. In the ninth we had our closer in with two outs and two strikes on the hitter.”
He said, “ If I knew the first three guys would get on base, you know what I would have done? Bring in Breslow.”
Before that the Red Sox, who went five innings without scoring a run, got a huge boost from Ciriaco.
“It felt pretty good,” Ciriaco said, “but the only thing that matters is winning the game and we didn’t win the game, so we just have to move on. The pitcher gave me a good pitch to hit and I put a pretty good swing on it.”
Ciriaco said about the subsequent events that led to the loss, “Today is over. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ve got to move forward. This is a tough one, but we just have to come back and play hard like we did today.”
The real injustice was that Clay Buchholz pitched so well (seven innings no earned runs) and had nothing to show for it. Buchholz has lost only once in his last 16 starts He’s 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA over his last 11 starts since May 27.
“He pitched great,” Valentine said. “I feel for him like I did for this whole team right now. He was, for whatever it’s worth, his arm felt good and his legs felt bad. He twisted his ankle [in the sixth] and he didn’t have the same stuff after that.”
It has been a frustrating series against the Twins, a team which was supposed to provide the Sox a respite on their tough schedule. They had managed two hits Thursday against Sam Deduno — ah yes, a household name somewhere. They had managed 14 hits on Friday night but lost, 6-5, in 10 innings when they couldn’t get a big hit late in the game. And then Saturday night they went five innings completely silent after scoring twice in the first two innings before Ciriaco’s shot.
The Sox had scored in the first inning when Carl Crawford’s wall double scored Ryan Kalish and then took a 2-0 lead when Mike Aviles powered his career-high 11th homer off Twins starter Cole De Vries.
Buchholz allowed a run in the fifth when his pickoff throw went wide of first, sending Jamey Carroll to second base. On Ben Revere’s tapper between the plate and mound, catcher Kelly Shoppach fielded it and hit the runner going down the line.
No interference was called.
Nonetheless, the Sox had pretty much won this in the ninth on a nice rally that electrified the Fenway crowd, only to suffer a devastating loss.
Nick Punto, who played for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals last season, still sees some similarities between the Sox and that Cardinals team.
“We were a pretty mediocre team until September and then we got going and we got some help from Atlanta,” Punto said. “I see similar things, but we know we can’t afford to lose games like this. We have to start winning games. The clock is ticking.”
Shoppach said of the tough losses, “I think the makeup of the guys is great. The guys love coming to the park and being around one another. They love coming to the park and when you have that type of chemistry, and you turn the page and you move on pretty quickly.
“There are things we do well and if we do those things we have a chance to win. This is one of the most talented teams I’ve been on. Lot of ups and downs throughout the season, but we need an extended up.”