Red Sox knocked for another loop
Five homers wasted; Beckett blows big lead vs. Rangers
ARLINGTON, Texas — Despite all the home runs and all the pitching changes, it seemed like it would never be enough. No matter that the Red Sox tied a season high with five home runs against the Rangers last night. No matter that they hit three consecutive homers while sending 11 men to the plate in the fourth inning. No matter that the Sox kept scoring — because the Rangers kept scoring with them.
Ultimately, though, it was the Rangers who scored last, after having allowed just one run in the final seven innings. With only Tim Wakefield left in the bullpen, the Sox turned to the knuckleballer in the 11th. And it only took one pitch, Nelson Cruz blasting it out of the park to end the game, 10-9, the Rangers having come back from a six-run deficit for the walkoff win.
“There was really nothing else to do. Wake was going to pitch until we won or lost. The good news is he won’t be tired,’’ manager Terry Francona quipped, a moment of levity in an otherwise solemn clubhouse.
There was little good news on a night in which the Sox finished a horrific two-game stretch. Not only did they suffer their second straight walkoff loss after blowing a big lead, they also suffered three injuries, most notably Jacoby Ellsbury. The center fielder will head to Boston to have his ribs examined tomorrow.
That made the nature of the losses more difficult to take. One night after the Sox had squandered a three-run lead in Toronto, they did themselves one worse, giving up a game in which they had knocked the opposing starter out after just three innings and held a six-run lead.
“Those are games we certainly need to win, and we didn’t,’’ Francona said.
In the end, though, this was about Josh Beckett.
Coupled with Beckett’s last performance, against the Yankees Aug. 8, the Sox starter has now allowed 13 earned runs over his last 9 2/3 innings, his ERA ballooning even further to 6.51. He failed to get out of the fifth inning in his last start, and just made it through the fifth last night, each time putting a burden on a bullpen that hasn’t always been up to the challenge.
“I think that we’ve got to try to get back to more of the basics with him, establishing fastball command,’’ Francona said. “When he starts commanding [the two-seamer], it opens up so much. We haven’t seen that the last couple games. He’s thrown it in there a couple times, but it’s not the pitch that we’re getting the called third strike or opening up the plate. That’s a big pitch for him.’’
After a seven-run fourth, which included three straight solo home runs, the Sox were up, 8-2. It appeared Beckett would cruise toward the finish line.
But that was when the offensive-minded Rangers demonstrated their abilities, turning a seemingly sure win for Beckett and the Sox into a referendum on Boston’s Opening Day starter. Handed that six-run lead, Beckett couldn’t hold it.
“I get into counts, and I try to do too much and the balls flies out and goes to the middle of the plate,’’ Beckett said, repeating over and over that it was his fastball command. “It’s frustrating. I tried to work on it between starts. It obviously didn’t do any good. It’s a shame that we lose a game like that because we scored a lot of runs. I couldn’t hold it.
“As frustrating as it is what I’m doing, it’s more frustrating what the team went through today. That’s where my frustration really lies.’’
In the fourth came a two-run homer by Mitch Moreland, the first of his major league career. Two more runs came in the fifth, on consecutive homers from Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to close the gap to 8-6. And the way that the baseballs were flying out of the Rangers Ballpark, that seemed to mean little.
It was fitting that the game ended with Cruz slamming a Wakefield knuckler to left field and out of the park. But there was another play that was just as important as Cruz’s missile.
After Texas had scored two runs in the seventh against Felix Doubront, pulling them within one run, they made the Sox bullpen pay again in the eighth. With two outs and Hamilton on second, Daniel Bard delivered a pitch that resulted in a grounder up the middle. Second baseman Jed Lowrie ranged behind the bag to make the play, and threw to first baseman Mike Lowell, the toss sailing just far enough away that it pulled Lowell off the base, at the same moment Vladimir Guerrero reached the bag.
With little time for Lowell to react, Hamilton rounded third base and was steps from the plate. Lowell threw home, Victor Martinez caught the ball, and wheeled around to make the tag.
Too late. The game was tied, as the 47,195 in attendance came alive.
“Great play by him,’’ Francona said of Hamilton. “Mikey’s got to stay on the bag and try to get the out. I would do the same thing. That’s a pretty good play.’’
Said Lowrie, “Throw was up the line just a little bit. He was hustling down the line. Just one of those bang-bang plays that didn’t go our way.’’
Neither did the game. All the offense, all the hits, mattered little. The Sox had gone back-to-back-to-back in the fourth, had gotten two homers from Drew, had five homers total. And yet it wasn’t enough, not with the way Beckett pitched.
“I’m not worried about individual stats,’’ Beckett said. “I wanted to keep us in the game better than I did. Our bullpen shouldn’t have been put in that situation, Tim Wakefield shouldn’t have been put in that situation — if I’d have just done my job.’’