Red Sox - 020 110 000 - 4 9 0 Royals - 030 000 03x - 6 7 1Billy Butler cranked a three-run home run off Matt Albers in the eighth inning - after Daniel Bard (7-6-5-4-1, 96) may have been left in one batter too long.
Bard began the eighth with a 4-3 lead and had thrown only 86 pitches; after a rough second inning, he had become extremely economical (41 pitches in the first two innings, 45 through the next five). But he seemed to tire in the seventh, allowing two singles to start the inning and getting away unscathed thanks to a superb play by Adrian Gonzalez on a bunt to cut down a runner at the plate.
So Bard opened the eighth by throwing three balls to Jarrod Dyson, battled back to a full count, and then lost him on ball four. This is when Bobby Valentine should have pulled Bard. Maybe. I'm not sure. I go back and forth. Bard was preoccupied with the baserunner, throwing over to first three times, and ended up walking Alex Gordon on four pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone. (Bard's obsession with runners on base cost him in the second inning, as well, as he balked twice and threw a wild pitch.) Now Albers came in, and Butler crushed his 1-1 pitch to deep left, wiping out Boston's lead and giving the Royals their margin of victory.
It's easy to shovel the blame on Valentine for this one, as he has had a slow hook with the starters and a bad habit of not having relievers ready. Valentine may have needed to stay with Bard because Albers did not have enough time to get ready. If so, that is unforgivable. These types of situations have often ended badly - I should make a list - and tonight was no different. But regardless of what Valentine did or didn't do, the serious blame has got to fall on Albers for giving up the meatball.
Will Middlebrooks doubled and scored in the second inning, but left the game mid-inning with a strained left hamstring. Middlebrooks joined Enos Slaughter as the only two players in major league history to have an extra-base hit in each of their first five games.
Kelly Shoppach had an RBI single and Dustin Pedroia walked with the bases loaded in the second. Pedroia singled in Mike Aviles in the third. Gonzalez (2-for-3, with a walk) doubled and scored on an error in the fifth. Marlon Byrd also had two hits.
Daniel Bard / Danny Duffy
Aviles, SSWill Middlebrooks is the first player in MLB history to have six extra-base hits in his first four games.
He is also only the second Red Sox player to record a 5-RBI game within the first four games of his career; Arquimedez Pozo did it on July 28, 1996.
Middlebrooks has nine RBI in his last two games. He has tied the record for most RBIs (9) in his first four games:
Jack Merson, 1951 PiratesSince April 23, the Sox bullpen has a 1.41 ERA (9 ER/57.1 IP) with 16 walks and 54 satrikeouts. (That also included the three runs allowed by Darnell McDonald.) It's the second best bullpen ERA in MLB since that time. (In the Baltimore series, the bullpen threw more than six innings in three straight games for the first time since August 26-28, 1950.)
Joe Cunningham, 1954 Cardinals
Dave Kingman, 1971 Giants
Arquimedez Pozo, 1995 Mariners/1996 Red Sox
Mike Jacobs, 2005 Mets
Will Middlebrooks, 2012 Red Sox
Boston - facing a lefty tonight - leads all MLB teams with a .513 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers. The Sox are 5-3 in games started by left-handers.