Sox stone cold
Beckett loses first; Drew gets earful
The bats have gone quiet, the pitching has stumbled, and the Yankees are winning every day.
All of that means the gloves have come off at Fenway Park, where a sellout crowd of 36,939 did not let last night's 7-1 Red Sox loss to the Colorado Rockies pass without comment.
The object of the fans' disaffection was not Josh Beckett, who lost for the first time this season and gave up two home runs, including a grand slam by Garrett Atkins, in five innings. It was J.D. Drew, whose slow start at the plate was tolerated while the Sox were winning. With the Sox having lost 8 of 13 games in June, and the Yankees reeling off nine wins in a row, Drew no longer is getting a free pass around here. He was singled out for some booing that was much louder than the periodic murmurs of displeasure he'd heard before last night.
"Pretty rough crowd tonight, wasn't it?" batting coach Dave Magadan noted dryly after the Sox, who were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position, were held to two runs or fewer for the seventh time in the last nine games.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have taken seven games off what had been a 14 1/2-game lead. The Yankees send Roger Clemens to the mound tonight to face the Mets, while Julian Tavarez, Boston's No. 5 starter, goes to the barricades tonight against Barry Bonds and the Giants in hopes he can do what the big dogs, Curt Schilling and Beckett, have been unable to accomplish the last two nights.
Drew, the flavor of the night to be Sox leadoff hitter, a role he hadn't performed in four years, left seven men on base in going 0 for 5. "We put him at the top because of his on-base capabilities, and all he does is come up with men on base," Magadan said.
"It's just one of those ways, especially when things aren't going good, that the game finds you."
It took a terrific catch by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, a rookie two years removed from being drafted, to take a hit from Drew with the bases loaded in the second. "And did you notice, just before the play, Tulowitzki moved a step to his left, because he was behind Coco [Crisp] and couldn't see?" Magadan said.
"J.D. put a beautiful swing on the ball," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Shortstop's playing up the middle and makes a great play. We're looking at maybe being up, 2-1, at that point with a full-fledged rally going. Then they turn around in the top of the next inning and get the grand slam. So it's a big swing."
Barring a last-minute change, Drew is expected to lead off again tonight against another lefthander, Barry Zito. "But you could see how frustrated he was after that play, hitting the ball hard and coming up with nothing," Magadan said of Drew, who rolled out to first with two on in the fourth and looked at a called third strike with two outs in the sixth before grounding out again in the eighth.
That made Drew hitless in 11 at-bats on this homestand, mocking hopes that he had finally come to life with consecutive three-hit games last weekend in Arizona. Drew is 11 for 61 (.180) in his last 18 games. He is not the only Sox batter scuffling, only the most conspicuous, by virtue of his $70 million contract and the confident projection of his skills by general manager Theo Epstein. With the exception of the dramatic blip in the desert, Drew is making Epstein look a little like Dan Duquette when he proclaimed Jose Offerman an adequate replacement for Mo Vaughn.
Crisp, who had a hit and walk in four plate appearances but is hitting just .223, was asked if he noticed the boos for Drew.
"They're getting on all of us -- me, J.D., and [Julio] Lugo, Youkilis a little bit, too," Crisp said. "I don't know, they're fans. They're allowed to do that.
"You just can't pay attention. People are going to boo, people are going to cheer, you've just got to play the game. It doesn't matter. You can't let that affect you. Booing isn't going to affect that."
There were firsts galore for the Sox last night, none worth celebrating. Beckett, bidding to become the first pitcher since Roger Clemens to win his first 10 decisions (Clemens won his first 11 for Toronto in '97), lost for the first time in '07. The Sox lost on a Thursday for the first time this season, after going 8-0. They lost a series at home to a National League opponent after going 9-0 at Fenway last season and winning their last dozen series at home.
"You're always going to get tested," said Francona, planning to huddle late into the night to prepare for this weekend's series against the Giants.
"You can have a bad day, a bad week," Crisp said. "Our team is too good a team. We just have to come out, win a game, win a series, and after that, we're good to go."
Beckett was touched for a run in the first on Kaz Matsui's bloop double and a single by Todd Helton. The Rockies loaded the bases in the third on Matsui's single, Matt Holliday's double, and a full-count walk to Helton. Beckett, who didn't get the call on a 1-and-1 breaking ball to Atkins, fell behind, 3 and 1, then watched Atkins line a ball into the first couple of rows of the Monster seats.
That made it 5-0, and an inning later, the Rockies made it 6-0 when Holliday unloaded on a 1-and-1 pitch and hit it over the Monster. The 10 hits and six runs allowed by Beckett were season highs.
Rockies starter Jeff Francis had runners on base in each inning, finally leaving after singles by Jason Varitek and Crisp in the sixth. The Sox finally broke through in the seventh on a single by Manny Ramírez, an infield out, and a two-out base hit by Mike Lowell.
Ramírez had three singles after being robbed by second baseman Matsui, who speared his liner. But he has gone 14 games and 47 at-bats without a home run.
"It's not like he doesn't want to or he's not trying," David Ortiz said of Ramírez, who eschewed his painter pants look in favor of wearing his socks high. "They're pitching us tough. If we come up to the plate with no one on base, they don't care if they walk you.
"Come out [tonight], hopefully we'll see some pitches. When they decide to throw something over the plate, it will [end]."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.