Game loaded with chances
Sox fail to take advantage of opportunities, fall to Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sitting in his office at Kauffman Stadium yesterday afternoon, Terry Francona found himself discussing, at length, Curt Schilling's return to the starting rotation, which comes tonight, 123 days since he last started a game.
''I actually think we've done pretty well," Francona reflected. ''We were in Texas [July 4] and we weren't real hot. We lose our closer [Keith Foulke]. Schilling goes back in the bullpen. We've more than held our own."
Indeed, the Sox went into last night 26-16 in Foulke's absence. For most of that duration Schilling occupied the role of closer and late-inning, multiple-inning reliever. That job was turned over to Mike Timlin Monday until Foulke returns, perhaps as soon as next week.
But last night, in 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Royals, it became evident just how much Schilling did offer this team as a reliever, even in light of a 5.18 ERA out of the bullpen. And, just how much this team needs Foulke, who threw a side session in the bullpen before last night's game.
Timlin pitched a taxing ninth inning last night -- he loaded the bases on a hit sandwiched by two walks before escaping on a strikeout and pop out. Having pitched the night before, when he allowed two runs in a 5-2 win, he could go no longer.
That forced the Sox to go to Bronson Arroyo, Saturday's scheduled starter, for the 10th inning. Arroyo, who started Saturday at Los Angeles, pitched a 1-2-3 10th before losing it in the 11th.
Arroyo, after recording an out to begin the 11th, walked David DeJesus, allowed a Terrence Long single, then walked Mike Sweeney on four pitches, loading the bases. Chip Ambres, the former PawSox outfielder dealt here in July for Tony Graffanino, then came to bat for the second time in three innings with the bases loaded and a chance to win the game.
Ambres, before the ninth inning, when he struck out, had never batted with the bases loaded. In the 11th, on a 2-and-2 count, he delivered a sacrifice fly to left field. Manny Ramirez caught the ball and threw home, where DeJesus beat the throw, despite the protest of Jason Varitek and Francona.
With Jon Papelbon unavailable until today, and Jeremi Gonzalez unavailable because he worked three innings Monday night, the only arm left in the bullpen after nine innings was Mike Remlinger. But, with Remlinger's Sox ERA at 19.80, Francona bypassed the 39-year-old lefthander in favor of Arroyo in a game that wouldn't end, despite so many chances.
The teams combined to leave 26 men on base, 13 of those by the Sox. Boston left 10 on base between the fifth and eighth innings alone, and Kansas City left eight on between the sixth and ninth innings.
What's more, the Sox loaded the bases in three consecutive innings -- the fifth, sixth, and seventh -- without a run.
In the fifth, Ramirez, up with one out and the bases loaded, grounded into an inning-ending double play. In the sixth, Johnny Damon, at bat with two away, grounded to second. In the seventh, Varitek came up with one out. Reliever Ambiorix Burgos shattered Varitek's bat on a foul ball with the count full, then fanned the Sox catcher with a splitter. Kevin Millar (2 for 4) followed and hit a sinking liner to left that Long snared.
The Sox, in fact, scored all three of their runs in the first three innings. Damon scored twice, moving out of a tie with Derek Jeter and into the league lead for runs with 95. He was hit just below his rear in the first and scored on a Ramirez single (RBI No. 112). Damon then walked to lead off the third and scored when David Ortiz grounded into a double play with Damon on third and no outs. The Sox also scored a run in the second.
It was in that inning, with one out and no one on base, that an ending was written to one of the summer's neverending stories. Indeed, Millar's homerless drought came to a close, and rather majestically. Millar, who had started only one of four games before last night and has recently acknowledged losing his everyday job, started against righthander D.J. Carrasco and took Carrasco out of the yard on a 1-and-0 offering.
When Millar reached the dugout he descended the steps to no fanfare. All of his teammates standing near the dugout railing ignored him. Soon thereafter, though, he appeared to receive belated congratulations.
Millar, before that at-bat, was 3 for his last 19 and 16 for his last 70 (.229).
The Royals scored once in the third, on a Sweeney sacrifice fly, and twice in the third, against Matt Clement.
Clement delivered his third consecutive promising appearance since being tagged for six runs in five innings Aug. 4 against Kansas City. He allowed three runs -- two on DeJesus's fifth-inning homer -- on five hits over seven innings last night, and in his last three appearances has surrendered only five earned runs over 20 innings (a 2.25 ERA).
Clement, though, hit three batters, including Angel Berroa on 0 and 2 to load the bases in the sixth. Emil Brown had reached with one out on a sharp double to left, and Mark Teahen had followed with a walk. But Clement escaped, preserving a 3-3 tie, when catcher John Buck grounded to Edgar Renteria for an inning-ending, 6-3 double play.
Mike Myers, in relief of Clement, walked pinch hitter Ambres to begin the Royals' eighth, then surrendered a single to Brown. Teahen then grounded to second baseman Graffanino, who erased Brown on the fielder's choice. Renteria nearly turned the double play, but the play had begun too slowly for that. So, Myers exited in favor of Chad Bradford, with runners on the corners and one out.
Bradford, who had allowed 10 of 15 inherited runners to score since joining the Sox, fanned the two batters he faced on eight pitches to escape the jam.