Flat early, Sox fall to lowly Indians
If the Red Sox fail to advance to the postseason, they surely will point to the outbreak of injuries that turned their roster into confetti.
But is how poorly they have played against the worst teams in the American League a function of poor health or a lack of focus?
It happened again last night. The Cleveland Indians, fresh off their trade deadline yard sale, showed up at Fenway Park and beat the Red Sox, 6-5, before a crowd of 37,931.
Trailing, 6-1, after six listless innings and a poor performance by John Lackey, Adrian Beltre got the Sox back in the game with a solo home run in the seventh inning and a three-run blast in the eighth that was last seen headed for Kenmore Square.
But a third straight walkoff win did not materialize as the Sox lost for the third time in five games against Cleveland this season. With a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth against Chris Perez, J.D. Drew fouled out and Jed Lowrie flied to left with David Ortiz on deck.
The Red Sox are 14-14 against the Indians, Orioles, Royals, and Mariners, the bottom four teams in the league. The Yankees are 23-8 against those teams, the Rays 21-7.
The Rays and Yankees are tied for first in the AL East with the Sox 6 1/2 games behind.
“That’s the difference right there,’’ Ortiz said. “We haven’t played well against those teams and we should be better. I don’t understand it.’’
The Indians arrived at Fenway having traded four prominent players last week — third baseman Jhonny Peralta, left fielder Austin Kearns, starter Jake Westbrook, and closer Kerry Wood.
That left Cleveland with only seven players remaining from the 2007 team that faced the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. The Indians now have the youngest roster in baseball and last night had three rookies in the lineup.
The Sox managed only two runs in seven innings against Fausto Carmona (11-8). Beltre had a sacrifice fly in the second and added that homer in the seventh.
He then gave the Sox a chance with his three-run blast off Frank Hermann in the eighth. Beltre, who did not stick around to speak to reporters, has 19 homers and 71 RBIs on the season.
“He swung the bat good,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We needed to get him up there one more time. He’s a great player.’’
Beyond Beltre, the Red Sox were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, wasting their 13 hits. Third base coach Tim Bogar added to the frustration by getting two runners thrown out at the plate.
His biggest mistake came in the seventh when he sent rookie Ryan Kalish to the plate against the strong arm of right fielder Shin-Soo Choo with one out and Sox down by four runs.
Catcher Carlos Santana had the ball in time to block the plate and injured his left knee in a collision with Kalish. Santana left the game on a cart.
“Probably a little too aggressive and I think Bogie knows that,’’ Francona said. “It was probably not the time to be as aggressive as he was.’’
Lackey easily maneuvered his way through the first three innings, allowing two hits and striking out five. But after getting the first two outs of the fourth, the game unraveled for him.
Lackey would get only five more outs while giving up six runs on seven hits and five walks.
“It just didn’t look like the same stuff was coming out,’’ Francona said.
Shelley Duncan (4 for 5) had a two-run double with two outs in the fourth. Lackey put three runners on the fifth but allowed only one run. Then came a sixth inning he could not escape.
Jordan Brown walked, Duncan singled to left, and Jayson Nix walked to load the bases with no outs. Lackey struck out Jason Donald but forced in a run when he walked Trevor Crowe on five pitches.
Francona replaced Lackey with Manny Delcarmen. Lackey was booed as he trudged back to the dugout.
“In the sixth inning, I kind of lost the feel and pretty much stunk,’’ said Lackey, who fell to 10-6. “It was kind of weird, I started guiding it a little bit.’’
Delcarmen got Asdrubal Cabrera on a foul pop for the second out. Francona then played the matchup game and called in lefty Dustin Richardson to face the lefthanded-hitting Choo.
Richardson left his first pitch, a fastball, high in the strike zone and Choo lined it to right field for a two-run single.
Lefties are 6 for 17 (.353) against Richardson this season, a bad sign for the rookie’s job security.
By the seventh inning, Francona decided to save his remaining relievers and turned to surplus starter Tim Wakefield, who pitched two scoreless innings on his 44th birthday.
“We dug ourselves a hole and we tried to dig out of it,’’ Francona said. “But it was too much.’’
First baseman Kevin Youkilis left the game after the second inning with a sore right thumb, the result of jamming it in the first inning. Initial X-rays were negative, but Youkilis is scheduled for an MRI this morning.
“He’s pretty sore,’’ Francona said. “He’s had a bone bruise in that area. When he got jammed, that thing swelled up real quick and got discolored.’’