Red Sox slip out of town
After loss to Rangers, 10-day trip looming
For a month now, Red Sox manager Terry Francona has had little choice but to fill the many holes in his lineup with players better suited for coming off the bench, that is if they belong in the majors at all.
The Sox have made 34 roster moves since June 18, the changes coming in rapid succession. The patch job worked well for a while, probably longer than they had a right to expect.
But as the team left Fenway Park yesterday to start a 10-day trip to the West Coast, it was with the knowledge that their season is starting to slip away following a 4-2 loss against the Texas Rangers.
That’s eight losses in the last 11 games for the Sox. A team only a half-game out of first place on July 3 now trails the Yankees by 6 1/2 games.
“We can’t keep waiting for the injured guys to come back,’’ center fielder Mike Cameron said. “We need to go out and win some games.’’
After rallying to beat the Rangers in extra innings Saturday night, the Sox were justifiably confident they could split the four-game series with All-Star lefthander Jon Lester on the mound.
Lester pitched well, allowing three earned runs over eight innings. But that wasn’t nearly good enough, as three of Texas’s runs were the result of sloppy defense.
“On a lot of days I thought he pitched well enough to win,’’ Francona said.
Those days were in May and June, when the Red Sox had enough offense to camouflage their weaknesses.
“It’s frustrating,’’ Lester said.
It started with two outs in the fourth inning when Josh Hamilton’s line drive to left field fell in front of rookie Daniel Nava, whose first step was tentative.
“I don’t think he was aggressive,’’ Francona said. “Just trying to get him to have his first step be a little bit more aggressive.’’
Said Nava: “Looking back on it, I should have played it better than I did. The ball was hit harder than I thought it was.’’
Lester then made a mistake, leaving a slider high in the strike zone that Nelson Cruz lined deep to center field. Hamilton scored from first, beating the relay throw as an alert Cruz took off for third base.
Rookie catcher Dusty Brown, making his first major league start, fired the ball to third base. But Adrian Beltre lost control of the ball when Cruz slid in. As it rolled away, Cruz jumped up and scored.
“He kicked the ball out of my glove,’’ said Beltre, who was charged with an error. “I had it in my glove, then I lost it.’’
In the fifth inning, Julio Borbon doubled to left field as Nava got twisted around and watched the ball sail over his head.
Elvis Andrus then surprised the Sox by pushing a bunt between first base and the mound.
The ball was popped up, but first baseman Kevin Youkilis could not get to it in time as Lester stood and watched. The single moved Borbon to third.
“When the ball was up in the air I thought somebody was going to catch it,’’ Lester said. “Even if I break off the mound on time, I don’t think we get him. It was a perfect bunt.’’
As Michael Young struck out for the second out, Andrus took off for second base. Brown briefly hesitated before throwing to second. Andrus, as the Rangers planned, came to a stop and Borbon headed for the plate. He stole home when the throw from Marco Scutaro was too late.
“Elvis did a good job of stopping there,’’ Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the trickery. “We forced them to make a play.’’
“We were throwing through,’’ Brown said. “It was a short hop in front of the plate and he slid wide. It was a tough play to pick the ball and go get him.’’
Texas took a 4-1 lead in the eighth as Andrus doubled and scored on a single by Ian Kinsler. The throw from left fielder Darnell McDonald was true, but Brown’s tag was a split-second late.
Lester (11-4) left the game after throwing 118 pitches. It was only his second loss in his last 16 starts.
Texas starter C.J. Wilson (8-5) and three relievers held the Sox to five hits. The Sox were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base.
Wilson, a converted reliever, allowed one run and three hits over 6 2/3 innings. He walked five but struck out a career-high 10.
He has given up two runs in 13 1/3 innings against the Sox this season.
Beltre had an RBI double in the second inning. The Sox did not score again until the ninth when Cameron drove a pitch from closer Neftali Feliz into the seats above the wall in left field.
Bill Hall reached on an error to bring the tying run to the plate. But Feliz struck out Kevin Cash and J.D. Drew before getting Scutaro to line to shortstop.
The road trip starts in Oakland tonight with erratic Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound. But if Francona feels the games are critical, he would not admit it.
“How do I feel? I feel like I always feel, pack our bags and go play,’’ he said. “I don’t think it ever changes. I don’t know if I really feel any different.
“Hope they have good food on the plane.’’