ANAHEIM, Calif. -- His first night in the big leagues, and Brandon Moss could have written a book. The rookie outfielder could not, however, pen a Hollywood ending to one of the most unexpected debuts any Red Sox rookie of recent vintage has experienced in a 4-2 Sox loss here to the Los Angeles Angels.
Called up from Pawtucket as insurance for three days because Eric Hinske is taking care of some family business, the 23-year-old Moss went from minding his own business in a corner of the Sox dugout to throwing a ball to the wrong base, juggling a ball before making a catch in left field, and striking out with the game on the line, all because Manny Ramírez, for one of the few times in his life, said more than anyone wanted to hear.
In this case, it was the plate umpire, James Hoye, who decided that Manny's rare exercise of his freedom of speech transgressed the bounds of good taste after Hoye ruled that Manny had not held up his swing on a high third strike from Angels pitcher Jered Weaver leading off the fourth inning.
"I guess he said the magic word," said manager Terry Francona. "In what language, I don't know."
When someone wondered why Hoye reacted to something that Ramírez said as he was walking away from the umpire, Francona said that was his first thought, too, when he emerged from the dugout to discuss the matter with the rookie umpire.
"Manny doesn't argue many balls and strikes," Francona said. "He knows the strike zone pretty good."
But Francona's exchange with the umpire was over quickly.
"He said Manny said it once, and that he wanted to make sure he said it," Francona said. "The second time, it was pretty clear."
How much the Sox missed their hottest hitter became painfully apparent when Moss, not Manny, came to the plate to face Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez with two on and two out in the ninth. Moss went down on strikes, the Angels had their first win in four tries against the Sox this season, and Boston's lead over the Yankees was just six games, the closest the teams have been since May 11.
Tough way to start your big-league career?
"I don't know if there is a way you can make your debut with the Boston Red Sox behind the scenes," said Curt Schilling. "Unfortunately he had to face one on the toughest guys in baseball, but I bet if you asked him, he wouldn't want it any other way. I was hoping he would come through."
That's what the Sox had hoped for Schilling, too, pitching seven weeks after he came out of the rotation with a shoulder that required a whole lot of strengthening.
Schilling passed inspection last night, which is more than you can say for some of the concession stands in Angel Stadium, the subject of some health violations involving creatures a lot less cuddly than the Rally Monkey.
Schilling departed in the seventh trailing, 3-2, after bantamweight Maicer Izturis hit his third home run of the season to open the seventh and slumping catcher Jeff Mathis (0 for 18) doubled. A fourth run was charged to Schilling when Reggie Willits, facing reliever Julian Tavarez, bunted Mathis to third and Chone Figgins lined a ball to Moss, who juggled it a couple of times before securing it in leather.
That ignited a mini-controversy, as Mathis had left well before Moss had full control of the ball, but the argument mounted by Francona didn't last much longer than the one Francona initiated after Ramirez was ejected.
The applicable section of the rulebook was Section 2.00, in which this stipulation is added under the definition of a catch: "Runners may leave their bases the instant the first fielder touches the ball." That would guard against outfielders deliberately breaking into a circus act, rather than the inadvertent performance by Moss.
While Julio Lugo was arguing vehemently that Mathis had left too early, Moss knew the rule. "It happened to me once in the minors," he said. "It was frustrating, because I lost that ball in the lights. If I catch it, I probably throw him out, so it cost us a run."
There was more controversy in the eighth, when Mike Lowell argued that his foul-tipped third strike against Scot Shields hit the dirt before catcher Mathis smothered it in his glove. The Sox lost that argument, too, which came after Moss had walked and J.D. Drew hit his third single of the night, putting the tying runs on base with no out.
After Lowell whiffed, Jason Varitek lined out, leaving it to Moose survivor Coco Crisp to deliver a big hit. Shields had other ideas. Crisp, who was hitless in four at-bats, looked at a third strike.
The Sox gave Schilling a 2-0 lead in the third when Dustin Pedroia drew a two-out walk off Angels starter Jered Weaver, stole second, and scored ahead of a full-count home run by Kevin Youkilis, his 12th of the season.
But the Angels countered with two in the fourth, their rally facilitated by Schilling's tardiness in covering first base on a potential double play ball by Garret Anderson that would have left the Angels with two outs and nobody on.
"Fundamental mistake," Schilling said. "I thought [Youkilis] was going to get back to the bag. That changed the inning."
Instead, Anderson reached, and Gary Matthews Jr. wound up with a double when Moss made a weak throw to third rather than hitting the cutoff man, allowing Matthews to advance unchallenged.
Casey Kotchman followed with a ground-ball single up the middle, both runners scoring.
Schilling, who had stranded Figgins at third after a two-out triple in the third, avoided further trouble until Izturis led off the seventh by lining either a splitter or changeup into the right-field seats