It’s never good to lose, and it’s especially crushing when you lose via the walkoff because that means you couldn’t score sufficiently or in time to prevent it or that your relief corps made a big mistake. Either way, it tends to leave you with this sense that it was totally and completely preventable and that it was all your fault that it happened. So losing a walkoff against the Rangers was awful, but winning a walkoff against the Twins felt about right.
Buchholz’s start was terrible compared to his usual work, which says a lot about his usual work. He gave up four runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out nine in six innings. Was it a quality start? No. He would have had to allow one less run for that. But his strikeout count was high. He just labored; he had to throw a lot of pitches to get the job done, and you could see that the job wasn’t easy.
He recorded the game’s first out using only two pitches, but he then gave up two consecutive doubles and a single that he deflected, which scored two runs all together. He gave up two straight walks before ending the inning with two strikeouts. That first inning was his worst so far this year; he threw thirty-six pitches to eight batters. The rest of the game wasn’t really that bad, but that first inning didn’t set a great tone.
Buchholz had one-two-three innings in the second and third. He opened the fourth with a strikeout but then gave up two consecutive doubles that resulted in a run. He ended the inning with two strikeouts. He gave up a double, a single, and a successful sac fly before recording the first out of the fifth. And he had a one-two-three inning in the sixth.
So there were great innings when he looked like his usual self, and then there were mediocre innings in which he looked like a mediocre version of himself. Overall, however, it wasn’t a terrible start. It just wasn’t what we’re used to seeing from him this year. Hey, if this is as bad as it gets, that’s not bad at all. Besides, we should have been able to overcome four runs easily.
In the end, we did. But it wasn’t easy. We pulled ahead by scoring one run in each of the fourth through eighth innings. Victorino uncorked a massive swing on the sixth pitch of the fourth; it was a slider on a full count, and it ended up past the right field fence. I think he’s back. Nava doubled and scored on a single by Drew in the fifth. Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth; Victorino moved to third when Papi hit into a double play and scored on a single by Napoli. Middlebrooks grounded out to lead off the seventh, but Drew joined the day’s power club. He got a curveball followed by a steady diet of fastballs; he worked the count 3-1 before he got a fastball he really liked and sent that one beyond the right field fence as well.
And then it was Pedroia’s turn. He led off the eighth and fought quite the battle to stay alive. His at-bat involved a total of ten pitches. He took three for balls, fouled off six, and homered on a particularly nice changeup. It was the perfect time to end a dry spell that reached almost two hundred games. Nice for Pedroia, I mean. Not so nice for the Twins, since at the time that represented the winning run. Wilson and Miller had combined to pitch the seventh; Miller inherited runners but fortunately kept them on the bases. Breslow had a one-two-three inning in the eighth. And then Pedroia happened. Like I always say, it’s so much fun to watch him unleash on a ball. He’s a small guy, but he’s got a lot of power. It was only a one-run lead, but things were looking good.
And then Hanrahan took the mound for the ninth, and things were not looking so good. He induced a flyout on four pitches to start things off. But I think he got his memos mixed up, because he let an opposing hitter join the day’s power club too. The count was full; after throwing five consecutive fastballs, he threw a sixth, and it was bad, and it was hit well. And the game was tied at five. We didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, so we had to play extras. All because Hanrahan made a big mistake. He is so fortunate that all that run did was tie the game and even more fortunate that we ended up winning. Otherwise it would have been plausible to say that the process of losing the game had started with him and that home run. He did the exact thing that no pitcher, let alone a closer, is supposed to do. Needless to say, after Hanrahan notched a strikeout and then issued a walk, he was replaced by Mortensen, who vindicated himself pretty thoroughly. (It turned out that Hanrahan would leave the game with a strained right forearm.)
Neither team scored in the tenth, and the Twins didn’t score in the top of the eleventh. But they did make a pitching change. Napoli and Nava were each out on three pitches to start it off. But then the tide turned. Salty singled right toward the mound; he kept his head down, ran hard, and beat it out, an especially challenging feat when you consider the fact that he’d been behind the plate for eleven innings already. Middlebrooks singled to left. And then Drew took a slider for a strike. Then he got a good-looking fastball and laid into it. It was a double, and it was enough to bring Salty home.
We won via the walkoff, 6-5. Drew was obviously the man of the hour with a four-for-five performance at the plate and of course his vital two extra-base hits. And we’re back on top with the best record in the Majors.
In other news, the B’s beat the Leafs, 5-2. So far, we lead the series, 2-1.