NEW YORK - With the two pitches from Joba Chamberlain perhaps still echoing in Kevin Youkilis's ear, Yankee Stadium emptied its fill of 55,067 seemingly satisfied fans. Not only had they seen their nascent phenom lob two in the general direction of Youkilis's head, whether by accident or on purpose, they had also seen their team take three straight, sweeping the Red Sox to bring the gap in the American League East to five games.
So as the blood simmered - "Man, I understand one but not two," David Ortiz said of the ninth-inning pitches that had Youkilis ducking and barking. "He's got pretty good control. And by the head?" - there was a far more rational explanation for this lost series in the Bronx, which concluded with yesterday's 5-0 defeat. Offense, or rather, a lack thereof.
"We're not hitting. That's it," Ortiz said before adding his explanation for the offensive explosion in Chicago over the weekend. "We were facing the worst pitching in the league, I guess."
That's why, even as the casualties were counted - manager Terry Francona and Chamberlain ejected for separate incidents - the lasting effects of this game surged beyond the day's antics. Though it is quite possible that a Yankees batter could see a pitch, say, high and tight in the teams' final series of the season Sept. 14-16, the Red Sox acknowledge they need to improve on this offensive display.
And that's all the more crucial without the services of Manny Ramírez and his strained left oblique. As the enigmatic Ramírez offered only that he was feeling "all right. No pain, no gain," the explanations were less cryptic and more critical from his teammates.
"Plain and simple, we didn't swing the bats," Jason Varitek said.
Or didn't swing them well. By going hitless over the first six innings yesterday, the Red Sox suffered through at least five innings of no-hit ball in two straight games, the only time in 40 years that has happened, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Yet, amid the dominance of Chien-Ming Wang and the third game in this series in which the Red Sox scored three or fewer runs, there was a positive development: Curt Schilling controlling a team that clearly knows what it's doing offensively, something that could have playoff implications.
Despite a fastball that didn't reach 90 miles per hour until Schilling faced Jorge Posada in the fourth, the pitcher allowed just two solo home runs, both to Robinson Cano, in seven innings. The first came on a first-pitch fastball that ended up over the middle of the plate before being deposited over the center-field fence. The second came on a hanging splitter that ended up not far from the first. Three more runs, all scored in the eighth, were charged to Hideki Okajima.
"He navigated his way through a pretty tough lineup," Francona said of Schilling. "Whatever his velocity is, if he locates and he's got his split and the cutter, he can pitch, as he showed today. Obviously, this is a very difficult lineup."
But Schilling was taking no consolation in his outing, the first time he had gone more than six innings since his one-hitter in Oakland June 7. His second straight strong start - he went six innings with one earned run against the White Sox - had ended in a loss, in a game he deemed important, in a game that meant the difference between a five-game lead and a seven-game advantage.
"We lost," Schilling said. "We got outpitched. We got outpitched three days in a row. Outpitched and outplayed."
Not outshouted, however. Though both Francona and Joe Torre took a couple of jaunts out onto the field for discussions with the umpires, it was in the seventh inning that Francona pressed second base umpire Derryl Cousins a bit too hard.
With the Red Sox struggling to create opportunities - just four base runners in the first six innings, all on walks - Youkilis began the seventh by bending out of the way of a Jason Giambi tag, a play on which Derek Jeter was assessed a throwing error. Mike Lowell followed with a single through the hole between first and second (a hole that might not have been there if not for the error), the first Red Sox hit.
Then came J.D. Drew. The much-maligned right fielder sent a pitch to third base, where it was fielded by Alex Rodriguez, who came in on the ball. He moved toward Youkilis to apply the tag, at which point Youkilis attempted to avoid it, putting one foot on the grass. Rodriguez, assuming Youkilis was out for having left the baseline, threw to first for what he thought was a double play.
That's what the scoreboard operator thought, too, as the words flashed in center field. The umpires weren't so sure - at first.
"On the play, we had a little lack of communication," Cousins said. "I had a safe call for no tag. [Third base umpire Mark] Carlson was making [a] call on out of the baseline. We just had to get together to make sure we had it right. Basically, I think Francona wanted to get run there. He just persisted in the discussion long after it was finished and we had explained the call."
Francona clearly didn't quite agree: "I just wanted to get an explanation, and obviously there was some frustration on my part."
That much was quite clear. During the game and, again, afterward, as the effects of three straight losses began to sink in.
"We're trying to win ballgames," Schilling said. "In my mind, this was a big game today and I got outpitched. It's disappointing."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.