Anthony Swarzak (6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 SO, 4 BB) gave the Twins their 7th quality start in the last 8 games, but it wasn't enough to beat Josh Beckett (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8 SO, 4 BB) and the Boston Red Sox this afternoon at the Metrodome. The Twins lost an opportunity to rise a game above above .500 for the 5th time, falling to 24-25 on the season. Boston moved a half game in front of the Yankees, at 28-20. With the loss, the Twins' problems in day games this season continue, falling to 3-11 in early starts.
Swarzak followed up his stellar debut (7 shutout innings) with another solid start, as he shut down the Red Sox through the first four innings (3 BB and a single). On the other side, Beckett's only blemish was a Joe Crede solo homerun in the second. Boston tied the game in the top of the 5th with a Jason Varitek solo homerun, but Swarzak got out of the rest of the inning unscathed.
After trading scoreless innings in the 6th, things got interesting in the 7th. Swarzak had thrown about 95 pitches to this point, going for another made sense against the bottom of Boston's order. Unfortunately, Varitek led off with another homerun to put Boston up 2-1. Jeff Bailey followed with a Texas Leaguer to short right center that Matt Tolbert couldn't quite grab over his shoulder. Jesse Crain came in to relieve Swarzak, getting Julio Lugo to fly out to right field. Ron Gardenhiredecided to play the lefty - righty matchup by bringing Sean Henn (not to be confused with Sean Penn)to face Jacoby Ellsbury. Henn hit Ellsbury, putting runners on first and third. Dustin Pedroia then hit a fly ball to Jason Kubel in right field. Kubel made a perfect throw home on the fly to Mike Redmond, and it appeared that Redmond tagged Bailey on the arm. Unfortunately, home plate umpire Todd Tichenor saw the play differently, calling Bailey safe. Redmond (rightfully, IMO) proceeded to get in Tichenor's face and was ejected in less time than it takes Delmon Young to strike out... Seriously, this one was like watching Bull Durham. "He must have called him a c***sucker". Gardenhire came out to protest, and immediately joined Redmond at the night crawler table. This put the Twins in a tough spot, as Joe Mauer had to move from DH to catcher and Henn into the #8 spot in the batting order. Anyone want to take bets on whether we bring up Jose Morales as a third catcher?
The bottom of the 7th saw its own drama, as Josh Beckett went on a 10 second temper tantrum after a borderline fastball on the outside corner was called a ball. In a very smart move to protect his pitcher, Varitek got between Beckett and Tichenor and was tossed in short order. Terry Francona decided the foursome was incomplete, so he came out to request an ejection and join the others. Did Beckett have an argument? Perhaps, it was a borderline call, but Swarzak had a similar, closer pitch called a ball against Julio Lugo in the 5th. No argument there...I suppose because he hasn't yet reached prima donna status. After the 7th, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon posted zeroes to give Boston the split.
#3 Brendan Harris (2 for 3, BB, 1B, 2B)
#2 Luis Ayala (2 IP, H, 0 R) - Kept Boston scoreless in the 8th and 9th, gave us a chance to come back
#1 Joe Crede (1 for 4, HR) - Accounted for the only run.
I considered Swarzak for a "star", but in the end, 6 IP / 3 R is pretty middle of the road. Not really any runs saved there.
#3 Mike Redmond (0 for 2) - Grounded into a big double play with two on in the second.
#2 Denard Span (0 for 3, 3 SO) - At least he had a sacrifice bunt
#1 Todd Tichenor - Don't think he's earning a playoff spot yet...