BBOSTON -- Greetings from the Edes cave, where there are plenty of leftovers to sift through Monday night’s 4 hour and 44 minute marathon win over the Twins -- and a tip of the cap to the hardy souls who on a very cool night hung in there until the very satisfying end for the Sox.
We don’t get many opportunities to talk about Salty’s base-running, Clay Buchholz getting knocked around a bit, or Clayton Mortensen being a difference-maker, so we’re not about to pass up that chance now.
* Jarrod Saltalamacchia was in a catcher’s squat for 218 pitches Monday night. Those of you groaning from doing two sets of 25 squats in your gym should appreciate what he must have felt like at the end of his night, especially given his size -- 6-foot-4, 235 pounds. And that doesn’t even begin to factor in the mental concentration required to handle six different pitchers and call for each one of those 218 pitches.
And yet, there was Saltalamacchia with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, hitting a tapper to the left of the mound, and summoning whatever reserves of energy he had to chug down the first-base line. The effort paid off when pitcher Jared Burton’s hurried throw pulled first baseman Justin Morneau off the bag, and Saltalamacchia was credited with an infield hit, his second of the season. Last year, he had five.
That hustle translated into victory when Will Middlebrooks, mired in a 3 for 23 slump, including four at-bats Monday night in which he failed to get the ball out of the infield (two K’s), followed with a line single to left, and Stephen Drew sent everybody home with a game-winning double.
“I don’t think I’ve ever contributed to a hit with my legs,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “But that’s big. Will had a good at-bat, too, getting a guy in scoring position, and Stephen was hot and got a hit off the wall, so I didn’t have to run too hard.’’
Saltalamacchia laughed when asked if he thought his ball might end up in no-man’s land and he’d have a chance to beat it out.
“No chance,’’ he said. “As soon as I swung and saw it go right in front of me, I pretty much was positive that I was going to be out. At that point in the game, my legs were done. I was just trying to get down the line as fast as I could, you know, and got the knock.’’
Another guy who had every right to be tired was reliever Mortensen. He was pitching for the third time in four games, including the loss in Sunday’s ninth-inning defeat to the Rangers, which was followed by the long flight back from Texas. But John Farrell had run out of options in the Sox bullpen.
He had already used Alex Wilson and lefties Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller, was determined to stay away from Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, both of whom had pitched in three of the last four, had placed Andrew Bailey on the DL before the game and lost closer Joel Hanrahan to a forearm strain in the ninth.
Mortensen was all he had left. He threw 43 pitches, the most he has thrown this season and most since he threw 35 against the Blue Jays in a blowout win April 7.
“Just grind it until they tell you you’re done or until we win the game,’’ Mortensen said Monday night. “Try to step up, and try to get some outs.’’
Mortensen replaced Hanrahan with two outs in the ninth and inherited a runner on first base, and a one-ball count to Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who came into the game with a .375 average in Fenway Park, fourth highest among active players with at least 65 at-bats. He induced Morneau to roll out to Middlebrooks at third to end the inning, walked two batters in the 10th with one out but escaped that jam with two infield outs, and gave up a two-out single in the 11th but retired Morneau on a fly ball to end the inning.
The win became his when Drew doubled in the bottom of the 11th.
“A situation like that, you come in in a tie ballgame in the ninth inning, I figured more than likely I was going to go until they tell me otherwise,’’ Mortensen said. “You just have to keep that mindset, ‘Still got to go, still got to go, still got to go,’ find that energy somewhere and compete.’’
Mortensen customarily is not used in close games, especially late. That’s not his role. He mostly pitches what are called the “abuse” innings, when the team is either well ahead or well behind. He had not pitched in a game this season in the seventh inning or later when the Sox were tied, a run ahead or a run behind, until Sunday in Texas. Monday night made it two in a row, and with a much more satisfying outcome.
“He’s been like that all year long for us, just solid,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “That’s huge tonight. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the reason we won tonight. He went out there. He was gassed, but he made his pitches the best he could and got us out of jams and got the win.
“That just shows you what kind of team we got. Every single one of those guys in the bullpen who have been beat up and used, they still wanted the ball. Morty just stayed in there for us and pitched his butt off.’’
Then there was Buchholz, who was bidding to run his record to 7-0 and become the first Sox pitcher since Josh Beckett in 2007 to win in each of his first seven outings, Beckett doing so in the only 20-win season of his career.
Instead, Buchholz gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in a 36-pitch first inning, which matched the most runs he has allowed in any start this season and were the first runs he’d given up in the first inning this season. He also allowed single runs in the fourth and fifth, the Twins ripping five doubles, the most extra-base hits he has allowed in a start this year, and he left trailing, 4-3, after six innings, the first time in 2013 he had pitched fewer than seven innings in a start.
Given that he had been accused of throwing a spitball in his previous start by Blue Jays broadcaster Jack Morris, the former pitcher with 254 big-league wins, and Dirk Hayhurst, another broadcaster who pitched briefly in the big leagues, there was plenty of attention focused on the gist of their accusations, that Buchholz had applied a substance of sort to his left forearm, which is where he scraped his right index finger and middle finger repeatedly.
Buchholz’s left forearm clearly glistened with moisture of some sort last Wednesday night in Toronto; he said it was sweat, though his right arm was dry. He insisted all he was doing was applying rosin to the ball, and indeed, he patted his arm with the rosin bag early in Monday night’s game.
But his arm was clearly dry Monday night, which if it had been perspiration in his last outing, could be attributed to the cool temperatures this time.
How well was his ball moving Monday night? He had struck out nine batters, half of his 18 outs, and he had 17 swings and misses, according to baseball-reference.com, the most he has had in a game this season and eight more than he had against the Blue Jays. So, obviously, his pitches still had considerable movement.
Asked if the talk out of Toronto had stayed with him, Buchholz said: “I did the same exact things. I gave up runs, so same type of deal.”
Asked to elaborate, he said: “I did the same thing I’ve done all seven starts this year, so it’s not anywhere in my head. A couple days afterward, hearing people talk about it in Toronto, that was a little different because that was the last thing I thought would have been said about me.
“When somebody’s doing good, either a hitter or a pitcher, a hitter’s doing something out of the ordinary as far as really good, everybody thinks they’re taking steroids. If the pitcher’s doing something, you have to be putting something on the ball.’’