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Still tossing and turning

Not even ejection ignites a spark

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 7, 2011

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Time to tip over the food spread? Time to give his team a little kick in the butt?

Not Terry Francona’s style.

The Red Sox were thumped by the Twins, 9-2, last night, by a lineup that had probably seen its best moments in Triple A Rochester, not Minnesota. That was following an 11-0 loss to the Angels Thursday afternoon, which came after a 5-3, 13-inning loss that lasted into Thursday morning.

There are times when a manager tries to get himself thrown out to rile up the troops. Last night, Francona got tossed for the 31st time in his career, but it was because he argued a balk call by plate umpire Angel Hernandez on Tim Wakefield in the second inning. Francona was merely trying to get an explanation why Hernandez considered it a balk. Francona already knew he was getting tossed because you can’t argue balks. But what transpired after that with crew chief Joe West really ticked Francona off.

“Actually, I never did get an explanation,’’ Francona said. “Since I was already thrown out, I figured I could get an explanation. But Joe wouldn’t let me. Not allowed to even ask, which to me is silly. I don’t understand why you can’t find out what somebody did. I understand you go out and scream at someone and get thrown out, but it seems like a silly rule.’’

Then it got better.

“Joe, as we all know, always wants to be in everybody’s business. Joe didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t really appreciate what he did. I think he was wrong. I know the rule. To be honest, I got out there so quick because I was stunned and Angel said if you come out I’ll throw you out, so I figured I’d find out. Hard to sit there and not find out what happened in a play like that. I’ve seen Wake do that 30 times,’’ Francona said.

West was physically trying to keep Francona from Hernandez. Francona tried to free himself. The two made contact. Major League Baseball disciplinarian Joe Garagiola Jr. will review the incident to see whether there are grounds for a fine or suspension.

“I thought he was grabbing me,’’ Francona said. “I didn’t appreciate that. I thought he was out of line.’’

Wakefield didn’t think he balked, and the replay confirmed he didn’t. The balk wiped out an inning-ending rundown and allowed a run to score.

“I heard Angel Hernandez tell me I stepped toward home plate,’’ Wakefield said. “I watched it. It’s clearly a gap between both my feet. That didn’t cost us the game. It was a bad call at the wrong time, but I loaded the bases no outs, got a ground ball that found the hole and scored two runs, and that was pretty much it.

“I had a little trouble today. I walked four or five guys. Just couldn’t find the strike zone and then when I did, one was hit out of the park, couple of doubles. It wasn’t a good night.

“I tried to put a lot on my shoulders and get us deep in the game and I didn’t do it and I’m disappointed in that. The bullpen has been taxed the last couple of games so I take pride in taking up innings and didn’t get that done tonight.’’

The Francona dispute was good entertainment, but it didn’t light a fire under the Red Sox.

It was a sloppy game — two errors by shortstop Jed Lowrie, a grounder that got past Gold Glove first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and scored two runs, two balks that led to runs. The second balk was by Alfredo Aceves in the sixth. Joked Francona, “I wanted to run back out and tell them they got that one right.’’

The Sox are 3-5 on this homestand after a 6-3 road trip, and their play has really been lackluster. Francona said he has seen no carryover from the 13-inning loss, but the Sox have spiraled downward since.

“Everybody was tired including the Angels, and they played better than us,’’ Francona said. “We just didn’t play a very good game [last night]. We put things in the rearview mirror pretty quickly.’’

There’s definitely a lingering effect from that marathon game. Lethargy is an apt description.

Some managers that Francona played for, like Dick Williams, probably would have stormed into the clubhouse by this point and kicked some butt. But Francona has always taken a different approach, one that has served him well. He believes in his players.

And the Red Sox are realistic about where they are. Sure, they’re in last place, but only five games back.

“I think we need to play a little better, but you can’t look at our record technically,’’ said Wakefield. “Look at where we are in the standings. We’re only five games out and it’s May. It’s not like we’re 10-12 games out, we’re in the thick of things even though we’re in last place.

“We need to play better and I needed to pitch better. I wouldn’t push the panic button. We’re only five games out. It’s not that far.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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