Sometimes Mother Nature shows no mercy. That was the case Wednesday night for the Red Sox. A rainout to wash away a runaway loss would have been heaven from the heavens.
Instead, the only deluge at Fenway Park last night came in the form of runs, not rain. The Twins flooded the bases with 20 hits and saturated the scoreboard. They had 14 runs and 16 hits after five innings and went on to a 15-8 victory.
The pregame rain faded away, but the Sox’ first real adversity of the season did not. Now, we’re going to see what these remade Red Sox are really made of.
It’s easy to have great chemistry and a congenial clubhouse when you’re rolling, racking up wins and exceeding expectations. But now the Sox are mired in a skid of five losses in six games. Both their closers reside on the disabled list, the back end of their rotation looks murkier than the Mystic River, their best starting pitcher is fending off allegations that he’s slathering SPF-50 on the ball for his benefit, and their best hitter saw his 27-game hit streak come to an end, a day after explaining why he’s not on steroids.
David Ortiz tweeted after the game on his Twitter-verified account: “End of my hitting streak tonight the season stil [sic] going and l hope Dan shaugnessy [sic] is a happy man now. . .”
This is what happens when you’re on top. You become a target. The Patriots have been dealing with it for years. It’s part and parcel of being a good team, which the Red Sox look like they are this season, despite their recent dip.
The last time the Red Sox had a team that was in contention we saw how they dealt with obstacles and adversity. They didn’t.
The 2011 Red Sox, the putative “Best Team Ever” let a snowball become an avalanche, a 7-20 September that swept them out of a playoff berth and led to an extreme makeover in the manager’s office and the front office. The Red Sox are still recovering from that calamity.
If the Red Sox have truly gotten a personality transplant with imports like Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster then they won’t let a little distress become a protracted downturn in play.
Gomes, who had a grand slam in the first inning and drove in five runs, said the Red Sox baseball character came to the forefront in the blowout.
“If anyone is checking for a character check about what happened today, being down [eight] runs and guys beating out infield singles, guys breaking up two, [Dustin Pedroia] diving all over the field, Napoli drawing walks, good defense throughout, not one person threw away an at-bat,” said Gomes.
“Like I said, whether you win by a bunch it’s one win, whether you lose by a bunch it’s one loss. But I’ll tell you what the character of this team really stuck out today.”
There’s a good chance that many watching this carnage unfold at the Fens quickly tuned it out and turned to the Bruins game.
The Red Sox and the Lords of the Laptop in the press box didn’t have that option, sadly.
Youngster Allen Webster, who came over from Los Angeles in the deal that freed the Red Sox of the undesirable souls and payroll of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, lasted just 1⅔ innings in his second major league start, charged with eight runs.
Webster could have used all the sunscreen and rosin he could find on Wednesday night because he lost his grip on this game right away.
It was a 31-pitch first inning for Webster. He started and ended it with strikeouts, but in between the Twins, who came in 25th in the majors in runs scored, installed turnstiles on the base paths.
With one out, Webster walked Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. Justin Morneau then hit a ground-rule double to right field to score a run. Trevor Plouffe brought home Willingham with a sacrifice fly. Then Ryan Doumit hit a 1-and-2 fastball into the bullpen and it was 4-0.
Gomes crushed a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the first that cleared the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster. It was Gomes’s fourth career grand slam. His last came at Minnesota off Francisco Liriano. The pitcher he hit it off, Pedro Hernandez, was part of the two-player package the Twins received from the White Sox for Liriano last season. Stephen Drew drove in Jarrod Saltalamacchia to make it 5-4, Sox.
But the Red Sox’ reprieve — like the rain — was short-lived. Minnesota sent 11 men to the plate in the second and ended it with an 11-5 lead.
Plouffe launched a two-out Fenway fly-ball double that scored Mauer, chased Webster, and made it 7-5 Twins. Felix Doubront was on in relief. He didn’t provide any, allowing four more Twins to cross the plate. Pedro Florimon, who had led off the second with a solo homer, doubled into the gap in left-center for the sixth and seventh runs of the inning.
“In their seven-run inning things got away from us,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “They continued to tack on. In short, it was a tough night on the mound.’’
Doubront, who had his turn skipped after a rough start in Texas to make way for Webster, was used as a bullet-proof vest for the bullpen.
He threw 105 pitches and allowed six runs of his own over 5⅓ innings.
No matter the score, the Sox still play “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning. The only thing that was so good, so good, about this game was that it was eventually over after 3 hours and 42 minutes.
But now that some of their flaws have been exposed and some nerves have been irritated we’re beginning to learn how these Red Sox will respond to the road to redemption turning a bit bumpy.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.