The Sox closed out a 6-1 victory over the Twins with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, and they’ve now secured the Mayor’s Cup for the second straight year.
Clay Buchholz got his final spring start on Thursday, and he was once again fantastic. Buchholz didn’t allow a run in four innings and he struck out six. He’ll end the spring with a 0.79 ERA.
Buchholz was followed on Wednesday by Joel Hanrahan, Koji Uehara, Alfredo Aceves and Jeremy Kehrt. Aceves pitched two innings, and he was the only one to surrender a run.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI ground out from Dustin Pedroia. They’d extend the lead to 3-0 in the sixth inning on a two-run single by David Ross. Boston then put up three more runs of insurance in the eighth. Jackie Bradley Jr. continued to make his case for a spot on the Opening Day roster by going 1-for-1 with a stolen base, two runs and an RBI single after entering the game in the sixth.
Boston has two games remaining on its spring training schedule, and both will be afternoon contests. The Twins will host the Sox at 1:05 p.m. ET on Friday, with Felix Doubront scheduled to get the start for Boston.
End 8th, Red Sox 6-1: Jackie Bradley Jr. survived Thursday’s roster moves, so he decided to pad his resume a bit more.
In his first at-bat of the game, Bradley chopped an RBI single through the right side. Eduardo Escobar probably should have made a play on the ball — or at least had an opportunity to make a play — but it bounced off the end of his glove and into right field.
Before Bradley’s single, Pedro Ciriaco ripped a single into center field and Ryan Sweeney walked.
After Bradley’s single, David Ross hit an RBI ground out and Jose Iglesias slapped an RBI single through the right side. The end result was a three-run inning, and the Red Sox now carry a 6-1 lead into the ninth inning.
Most importantly, the Sox are three outs away from securing the 2013 Mayor’s Cup.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 3-1: Alfredo Aceves wasn’t haunted by the two baserunners he allowed in the seventh inning. In the eighth, he surrendered a run, although it could’ve been worse.
Aceves issued an always dangerous leadoff walk to Pedro Florimon to get the eighth inning rolling. Aaron Hicks followed up with a line drive single into right field, which enabled Florimon to go from first to third.
Aceves picked up the first out with runners at the corners by striking out Danny Lehmann on a nasty sinker down and in. Jonathan Goncalves wasn’t fooled against the right-hander, though. He lined a single into center field to bring home Minnesota’s first run.
At that point, the Twins had first and second with just one out, meaning Aceves was up against the ropes. Fortunately for the Sox, Dan Rohlfing let him off by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play.
It was a relatively routine double play, but it’s hard not to be impressed with how quickly Jose Iglesias gets rid of the ball after fielding it. The rock doesn’t spend much time in the leather; I can tell you that much.
It’s also worth noting that the Red Sox have made some subs in this game. Mike Carp, Ryan Dent, Pedro Ciriaco, Ryan Sweeney and Jackie Bradley Jr. are in. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes are out.
End 7th, Red Sox 3-0: Ryan Pressly, a Rule 5 guy originally drafted by the Red Sox, pitched the seventh for Minnesota. He gave up a two-out double, but otherwise did a nice job.
Pressly, who was an 11th-round pick of the Sox in 2007, picked up two quick outs courtesy of back-to-back strikeouts against Jose Iglesias and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Daniel Nava fared better, though, raising his spring average to .313 with a wall-ball double to left.
Pressly came back to get Dustin Pedroia to fly out. Pedroia is now 0-for-4, although he was responsible for getting the Red Sox on the scoreboard with a first-inning ground out.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 3-0: Alfredo Aceves took over in the seventh. He put a couple of runners on, but ultimately kept Boston’s shutout intact.
Chris Parmelee singled to lead off the inning. Evan Bigley then grounded back to the mound, setting up what should have been an easy double play. Aceves’ throw to second base sailed into center field, though, and that put runners at first and second with no outs.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, the inning didn’t spiral out of control. Aceves settled down nicely after the miscue.
Aceves struck out Trevor Plouffe, and got Wilkin Ramirez to fly out into left-center field. Aceves then came back to record his second strikeout of the inning against Eduardo Escobar, who went down swinging.
End 6th, Red Sox 3-0: The Twins turned to the bullpen in the sixth, and the Red Sox took advantage by tossing two runs up on the scoreboard.
Jared Burton replaced Kevin Correia, and he struck out Mike Napoli to begin the inning. Will Middlebrooks then lined out to third.
That’s when things got much more difficult for Burton.
Shane Victorino ripped a base hit into right field, which was misplayed by Jonathan Goncalves, who just entered the game. The miscue allowed Victorino to move up to second.
Jonny Gomes was plunked to put runners at first and second. He was quickly removed for a pinch runner. It was none other than Jackie Bradley Jr.
Right after Bradley entered the game, he and Victorino executed a double steal to put two runners into scoring position for David Ross. Ross made it count by delivering a two-run single into center.
Alfredo Aceves is coming on to pitch for Boston.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 1-0: Koji Uehara has been tremendous all spring. He gave up a two-out double to Joe Mauer, but he kept Minnesota off the scoreboard.
Uehara has now pitched nine scoreless innings. He’s allowed just four hits and walked two in that span, while also racking up 11 strikeouts.
Uehara’s 10th strikeout victim was Pedro Florimon to lead off the sixth. Aaron Hicks hit the second out of the inning to his counterpart in center field.
Mauer then ensured Uehara would have to work a little bit more. He put an inside-out swing on Uehara’s offering, and planted it off the JetBlue Park Green Monster for a two-bagger.
Uehara got out of the inning, though, by picking up his 11th strikeout of the spring. He pulled the string on Josh Willingham.
End 5th, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox loaded the bases, but they were unable to extend the lead.
Jonny Gomes, Jose Iglesias and Jacoby Ellsbury singled — with a David Ross fly out mixed in — to load the bases with one out. It was the first time the Red Sox really threatened against Kevin Correia since the first inning, when two productive outs following an Ellsbury leadoff double resulted in the game’s only run.
Daniel Nava was the first Red Sox hitter to take his cuts with the bases juiced, but he struck out swinging. Nava tried to hold up on a high, two-strike fastball, but he went too far.
Dustin Pedroia then hit a slow roller down to third base. Trevor Plouffe charged in, gloved it, and made a nice, strong throw to first to retire Pedroia and squash the threat.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Good stuff from Joel Hanrahan in the fifth. Hanrahan enjoyed a very quick, 1-2-3 inning.
The Boston closer got Trevor Plouffe to pop out to Mike Napoli just inside the first-base line, and then got Wilkin Ramirez to ground out to third base. Hanrahan capped off the inning with an overpowering strikeout of Eduardo Escobar.
Hanrahan now has five straight scoreless outings since giving up four runs in a third of an inning against the Twins on March 7.
End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Kevin Correia breezed through the fourth.
Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino each grounded out harmlessly.
Joel Hanrahan will take over for Clay Buchholz in the fifth inning.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Clay Buchholz scattered a hit, but also struck out the side.
Buchholz started off the inning by striking out the always dangerous Joe Mauer looking.
Josh Willingham, who walked in his first at-bat, reached base for the second time. He lifted a falling line drive into left field. Jonny Gomes didn’t really get a good break on it, and his diving attempt proved fruitless. The ball fell just under his glove, which allowed Willingham to reach with one out.
Buchholz bounced back to record back-to-back strikeouts against Chris Parmelee and Ryan Doumit. Neither hitter got the bat off the shoulder.
Buchholz has six strikeouts through four innings.
End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Jacoby Ellsbury reached base for the second time, but the Red Sox were unable to extend the lead.
Jose Iglesias kicked things off with a harmless ground out to short, and Ellsbury followed up by working a walk.
Daniel Nava, who has had a fantastic spring, nearly smacked one off the wall in left. It got knocked down by the wind, though, and Josh Willingham made the grab on the warning track.
Dustin Pedroia threatened to shoot one through the right side with two outs. Eduardo Escobar made a great, diving play, however, and he fired Pedroia out at first.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Clay Buchholz is cruising right along.
Buchholz enjoyed a second straight 1-2-3 inning in the third.
Eduardo Escobar started off the inning by chopping a ground ball to Dustin Pedroia at second. Buchholz followed up the ground out by striking out Pedro Florimon.
Aaron Hicks, who struck out in his first at-bat, flew out to Jacoby Ellsbury in center for the inning’s final out.
End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Shane Victorino reached via an infield single, but Kevin Correia did a nice job of inducing soft contact.
Will Middlebrooks grounded out to short, before Victorino then reached on the infield hit. Jonny Gomes grounded out to third, which allowed Victorino to move up to second, but the Red Sox’ threat would end there.
David Ross ended the inning by grounding out to short.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Clay Buchholz enjoyed an easy inning in the second, and it was largely because he was hitting his spots.
Ryan Doumit led off the inning by chopping a grounder to Mike Napoli at first base, and Trevor Plouffe flew out to center.
Buchholz ended the inning with a strikeout of Wilkin Ramirez.
End 1st, Red Sox 1-0: A double and two productive outs has Boston on top.
Jacoby Ellsbury started off the inning by lining a hit into right-center field. Immediately sensing that Wilkin Ramirez had a long way to go, Ellsbury gambled and ended up on second base with a double.
Ellsbury would then move to third on a broken bat ground out by Daniel Nava, and he would score on a ground ball off the bat of Dustin Pedroia.
Mike Napoli ended the inning by popping out to second.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Jackie Bradley Jr. is obviously the more popular name around Boston, but Aaron Hicks is another young, up-and-coming outfielder with a bright future.
Scouts have been raving about Hicks, who is hitting .373 this spring. Clay Buchholz was able to get the best of him in his first at-bat, though. The Boston righty froze Hicks to pick up his first strikeout of the evening.
Joe Mauer was then his usual patient self. Buchholz nearly struck out the All-Star catcher with a 1-2 pitch on the inside corner, but Mauer eventually worked the count full before grounding out to Jose Iglesias at short.
Josh Willingham earned a free pass with two outs, but Buchholz bounced back to get Chris Parmelee to fly out to center.
Home plate umpire Toby Basner had a relatively small strike zone in the first. Buchholz just missed with a few pitches, especially on the inside corner. That could be something to monitor going forward.
7:06 p.m.: Clay Buchholz’s first pitch is a ball, and we’re under way.
7:02 p.m.: The Red Sox and Twins are almost ready to roll at sunny JetBlue Park. The Sox have won four of the first five spring meetings between the two clubs, thus ensuring at least a share of the Mayor’s Cup this year.
6:13 p.m.: The Red Sox made a few roster moves on Thursday. None included Jackie Bradley Jr., who continues to await his Opening Day fate.
We did learn, however, that Daniel Bard will begin the season in the minors.
The Sox announced that Bard has been optioned to Double-A Portland. He’ll head down there to continue working on his mechanics — and whatever else — in an effort to regain his form of a few seasons ago.
Bard, of course, had a disastrous 2012 season, which kicked off with a great deal of uncertainty surrounding his role. The hard-throwing righty never bounced back from the starter-or-reliever debacle of last offseason.
The Red Sox also announced that Stephen Drew has been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list (retroactive to March 27). That doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Theoretically, Drew could return for Boston’s second game of the season, but I’d venture to say there’s a 99.9 percent chance that won’t happen. Drew hasn’t played in a game since March 7, and as of right now, there’s still not a set date for his return to game action.
Mauro Gomez and Brock Holt were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. That means it’s probably safe to go ahead and buy your Mike Carp and Pedro Ciriaco jerseys.
5:12 p.m.: Jackie Bradley Jr. is still awaiting his roster fate, but he won’t have an opportunity to pad his resume on Thursday — at least to begin the game.
Bradley will be out of the lineup, as the Red Sox’ outfield will instead be patrolled by Jonny Gomes, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino — from left to right, respectively. That was the original outfield plan before David Ortiz experienced an injury setback and Bradley burst onto the spring scene. It may still be the Opening Day outfield.
Daniel Nava will get the nod as Boston’s designated hitter. He’s been an on-base machine in Grapefruit League action this year, and as a result, manager John Farrell has penciled him into the No. 2 spot on Thursday.
The rest of Thursday’s lineups are below.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Daniel Nava, DH
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Mike Napoli, 1B
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Shane Victorino, RF
Jonny Gomes, LF
David Ross, C
Jose Iglesias, SS
Clay Buchholz P
Aaron Hicks, CF
Joe Mauer, C
Josh Willingham, LF
Justin Morneau, 1B
Ryan Doumit, DH
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Chris Parmelee, RF
Eduardo Escobar, 2B
Pedro Florimon, SS
Kevin Correia, P
8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox’ starting pitchers are getting their final tune-ups in before the start of the regular season. On Thursday, it’ll be Clay Buchholz’s turn.
Buchholz enters the game with a 0.96 ERA (two earned runs in 18 2/3 innings) in five spring starts. He allowed one run on four hits while striking out five in his last start against the Pirates on Saturday.
Thursday’s contest will mark the first of three games against the Twins to close out spring training. The Sox and Twins will also do battle on Friday and Saturday. Boston begins the regular season in New York against the Yankees on Monday.
Following Buchholz on Thursday will be Alfredo Aceves, Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara.
Thursday’s action kicks off at 7:05 p.m. ET. Coverage of the game will be provided on NESN, and of course, be sure to stick around with NESN.com for additional commentary and analysis.