Closing Time: Youth, bullpen carry Red Sox to series win over Orioles

April 03, 2014 - 6:04 pm

Internally, as strongly as the Red Sox feel about the futures of Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr., there was at least some discomfort with the idea of committing to all three of them at the same time given the absence of a collective big league track record. Inexperienced big leaguers are subject to greater unpredictability, and so having a third of the lineup consist of question marks -- albeit very, very talented ones -- was an idea that elicited some discomfort. But, of course, all three players harbor considerable upside, a notion that was reinforced on Thursday in a 4-3 victory over the Orioles fueled largely by that young trio. Bogaerts went 3-for-4 while scoring two runs and delivering his first career three-hit game in the big leagues; he's now hitting .556 to start the season. He also made a strong play on a ball in the hole in the bottom of the eighth, delivering a forceout at second at a time when the Sox were clinging to a late-inning one-run lead. Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with a double and scored a run. Bradley -- in the big leagues because of Shane Victorino's stint on the DL -- scored the other Sox run on a night when he likewise went 2-for-4 and delivered an RBI. The game was the first since Aug. 2, 2009, in which the Sox had three players age 25 or younger collecting multiple hits. It was a reminder that, while that trio may not have cemented its collective place in the Sox order, there may be a team soon when all three of them are indeed a part of the everyday shape of the team, and capable of contributing to a winning culture. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- David Ortiz had two hits in spring training. He exceeded that total on Thursday, going 3-for-5 (one day after delivering a pivotal two-run homer), and underscoring the notion that games of no consequence have little predictive power for the veteran. -- The Red Sox bullpen has now logged 7 2/3 scoreless innings to open the season, with five different pitchers (Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Brandon Workman, Chris Capuano and Edward Mujica) now having contributed to that effort. -- Junichi Tazawa recorded his third straight scoreless appearance to open the year. Though he allowed two soft singles, he has three punchouts in three innings and has shown more power on both his fastball and splitter both in the late spring and the start of the year than he exhibited last year. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- Felix Doubront didn't pitch poorly, but his stuff and results were both pedestrian. He threw strikes (51 of 76 pitches, 67 percent), but his fastball was mostly around 88-91 mph on a night when he allowed three runs on six hits (four singles and two doubles) in 5 1/3 innings while striking out four and walking one. He was good enough to earn the win, but left his bullpen with little margin of error. -- Mike Napoli, who set a Red Sox record with 59 multi-strikeout games in 2013, had his first game with multiple whiffs this year, going 0-for-4 with two punchouts.

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