|Nick Green's high throw to first in the ninth let the winning run reach. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)|
Giving away outs takes win out of Red Sox' reach
SEATTLE - The ball sailed as Nick Green released it, flying so high over first base that Jeff Bailey would have needed to be double his height to catch it. It ended up in the camera well, where the photographers must have gotten great shots of the missile heading straight for them. Ronny Cedeno, who had hit the in-the-hole grounder to the Red Sox shortstop with two outs in the ninth inning and the game tied at 2, jogged into second base.
He wouldn't remain there long, as Ramon Ramirez intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki, then faced Franklin Gutierrez. Two pitches later, Gutierrez singled to left field, and Cedeno rounded third, bound for home. The throw from Jason Bay was far too late. The winning run was in, giving the Mariners the game and the series, as the Sox fell, 3-2, in their final regular-season game on the West Coast.
"I threw it away," said Green about the second of his two errors yesterday. "I just threw it away. It happens. Did I want it to happen? No. Obviously it happened at the wrong time.
"You try to slow things, and I slowed it down too much, I think. I took my time. It's just that I got a little lazy. I didn't come back over the top of the ball."
The Sox now have 11 miscues from the shortstop position, the most in the majors, one ahead of the Nationals. Shaky defense has been all too common, whether it has been Green or Julio Lugo stationed there. With Jed Lowrie's return from wrist surgery still probably a month away, the Sox have had to play through a black hole at that spot. The defense at short has been questionable enough that manager Terry Francona inserted minor league journeyman Gil Velazquez for defensive purposes Saturday night, rather than put in Green with the Sox in the lead.
"We all know if you give extra outs you're making it harder on yourself," Francona said. "I guess I just choose to believe in our guys, and work on getting better. Today, in Green's case, I know he will. Rather than point out things that are obvious, errors or walks, those don't help. He's a hard worker. All the things that we said when he filled in and did great I don't think has changed. Again, you give extra outs, it hurts your chances."
It certainly wasn't only the errors, the first of which Green atoned for with quick thinking on one of the odder double plays you'll see. In the sixth inning, after Wladimir Balentien got on base on Green's first error, the shortstop tagged a confused Balentien out near second base on a sacrifice bunt by Rob Johnson that everyone seemed to think was foul, ending the inning.
It was also the Sox' offense, which helped waste a very good and efficient performance by Justin Masterson. The Sox grounded into three double plays, two by Mike Lowell, all to end innings. The Sox scored their first run in the second when Jason Varitek drove in J.D. Drew on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. Though the bases were reloaded on an infield single by Green (2 for 3, walk), Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to end it.
Drew homered to right leading off the fourth, but that would be it for Boston. Lowell came up in another bases-loaded situation in the fifth and hit into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the inning. So while the Sox were able to nab the Mariners on a few nifty double plays, Boston gave them right back.
"Same thing that will make you laugh will make you cry," Francona said.
There were two men on in the sixth, which Varitek ended with a double play. In the ninth, there were men on first and second with one out. But Ellsbury popped to second base, and Dustin Pedroia flied to right. Then came the Green error and the Gutierrez single and the Mariners win in the bottom of the ninth.
"We didn't really swing the bats very well, kind of this whole trip," Pedroia said. "Hopefully we get back home, swing the bats better. We need to score a lot more runs than two. Especially today's game. We really didn't do much.
"We need to do a better job of finding a way to. If we're not hitting home runs, we've got to manufacture runs. We've got to start doing it."
That left the Sox 2-4 on this West Coast swing, and 4-8 overall on the West Coast. The team has lost five of its seven road series this season.
"Disappointing," Masterson said of the trip. "We've been playing pretty good. It's been a lot of close ballgames overall, a lot of close ballgames that just unfortunately have been a step out of reach. I know we continue to play like this, we're going to win a lot of close ballgames. I like where we're at."
But no one liked how they lost, though it was as much the fault of an offense that couldn't make good on its chances as it was the fault of that error in the ninth.
"Losing is hard, however you look at it," Francona said. "We had opportunities. So did they. You're playing on the road, you get in a tie game, a one-run game, a mistake or a hit you end up going home. It was a tough loss. That's what happened to us."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.