Red Sox punched out by lowly Orioles
The Red Sox played the Baltimore Orioles yesterday. But the highlight of manager Terry Francona’s day came a few hours before the first pitch when he told six of his players they had been selected to the American League All-Star team.
Francona was so eager to make sure Jon Lester got the good news that he called the lefthander, who was stuck in traffic on his way to Fenway Park.
“It wasn’t quite how I anticipated it going,’’ said Francona about the timing. The manager marveled at how genuinely honored Lester, Adrian Beltre, Clay Buchholz, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia were to learn of their achievement.
Once the game started, the fun came to an abrupt halt. The Sox managed only three hits and were beaten, 6-1, by the Orioles before a crowd of 37,742.
Until yesterday, the Sox had handled the loss of Martinez and Pedroia to injury well. But Baltimore lefthander Brian Matusz and three relievers left the Sox looking like a team in search of its missing stars.
Matusz, a talented 23-year-old, was 0-9 in his previous 13 starts, the product of playing for a team that gave up on its season weeks ago. But he had pitched well in two earlier starts against the Red Sox, allowing five earned runs over 11 2/3 innings.
He was even better this time, giving up two hits over seven shutout innings. Matusz (3-9) walked three and matched his career high with eight strikeouts.
“I went two months without getting a win. Yeah, I do know that,’’ Matusz said. “So it is nice getting a win. But I never judge my performance off that.’’
Blame the sun. The Red Sox are 8-13 in day games this season.
“It’s hard to pick up a lefthander in day games here,’’ Kevin Youkilis said. “I don’t know what it is.’’
The two lefthanded hitters in the lineup, Ortiz and J.D. Drew, were 0 for 6 against Matusz with five strikeouts.
The Sox didn’t score until the ninth inning when Youkilis homered into the Monster Seats off reliever Jason Berken, a righthander.
It was a maddening day for Sox starter John Lackey, who agreed with Francona’s notion that he had his best stuff this season.
“That’s probably right,’’ he said. “That just makes it more frustrating.’’
Lackey did not pitch that poorly, giving up four runs, three of them earned, over 7 1/3 innings. He walked one, struck out seven, and gave up eight hits. But along with the lack of run support, he didn’t get much help from his defense.
With Baltimore ahead, 1-0, in the fourth inning, Lackey faced Scott Moore with Adam Jones on first and one out. With Jones on the move, Moore grounded a single into right field. Drew was slow getting to the ball and Orioles third base coach Gary Allenson sent Jones to the plate. He scored, as Drew’s throw was late.
In the eighth inning, down only 2-0, Lackey allowed a double by Miguel Tejada before Nick Markakis singled. Ty Wigginton hit a sharp grounder to shortstop. Marco Scutaro appeared caught between trying to start a double play or throwing to the plate. He ended up with the ball at his feet for an error as a run scored.
The misplay also helped give Baltimore its fourth run as Markakis scored on a sacrifice fly.
“You see [Scutaro] glance up. The ball’s hit hard enough where you can tell he’s thinking about going home instead of just taking the double play,’’ Francona said. “Then it kind of fell apart from there.’’
Lackey was trying to cool off in the clubhouse by the ninth inning when Drew had another fielding adventure, misplaying a fly ball down the line off the bat of Julio Lugo into an RBI triple.
Lackey is 9-4 but the Red Sox are 9-8 in the games that he has started. The righthander appeared annoyed at the play of his teammates but kept his comments in check.
“There were definitely some frustrating things that happened out there,’’ he said. “But, you know, whatever.’’
The Red Sox, for all the good work they have done this season, are 6-6 against the woeful Orioles. To put that in some perspective, Baltimore is 19-50 otherwise. Of the nine wins the Orioles have on the road, two have come against the Sox.
The loss cost the Red Sox in the standings as they fell 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the division. The Sox start a six-game road trip tonight at Tampa Bay, the beginning of a stretch in which they will play 16 of 20 games on the road.
“Today was just one game and you move on,’’ Youkilis said. “We’ve been playing good baseball and now we need to get back to that.’’