Sox go belly up in loss
Aceves too wild; Padres home free
Alfredo Aceves walked five Padres in a row in the second inning, throwing more balls off target than a kid at a carnival trying to win a giant stuffed Pink Panther.
The crowd at Fenway Park seemed to be willing manager Terry Francona to come out of the dugout at one point, anything to stop what had become uncomfortable to watch.
But Aceves was an emergency starter, taking the mound in place of a sick Josh Beckett. Removing him early would have meant burning out the bullpen. So the pitches kept coming and kept missing.
“Everything went wrong,’’ said Aceves, who threw 12 con secutive pitches outside the strike zone. “It was weird. Strange.’’
Yet the Red Sox put themselves in position to win last night, advancing runners into scoring position in bunches. In the end, an inefficient offense was as much to blame as their erratic starter for a 5-4 loss.
A crowd of 38,422, the largest at Fenway since the end of World War II, saw the Sox collect 13 hits and draw five walks. But they left 11 runners on base, seven in scoring position.
It was only the third loss in 17 games for the Sox, who saw their lead in the American League East reduced to one game. They will try and win their third consecutive interleague series this afternoon with John Lackey on the mound.
“Come back tomorrow and fight back,’’ David Ortiz said.
The Padres, who snapped a six-game losing streak, got 3 1/3 scoreless innings out of their bullpen. Chad Qualls (4-3) was the winner with Heath Bell picking up his 19th save.
No pitcher had walked five consecutive batters since Cleveland’s Jason Davis against Seattle April 24, 2005. Yet Aceves survived to go five innings and left the game down only 4-3.
“He just had that one bad inning of control,’’ catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.
With the Sox up, 1-0, Aceves retired the first two batters on seven pitches. Then came the five straight walks as Aceves missed, missed, and missed some more.
After Cameron Maybin, Nick Hundley, and Chris Denorfia walked to load the bases, Aceves walked Jason Bartlett on five pitches to force in a run. He then lost an 11-pitch battle against Chase Headley, nearly hitting him with a full-count cutter.
Aceves switched to the windup once the bases were loaded. That didn’t work. He tried fastballs, cutters, curveballs, changeups, and sliders to no avail.
Aceves finally ended the inning by getting Ryan Ludwick on a fly to center. He threw 42 pitches in the inning, 19 for strikes.
“He lost his command. Normally a hitter or two and you reel it back in. [He] just didn’t find it for a while,’’ Francona said.
Aceves could not remember that happening to him before. But he was proud of himself for persevering.
“I made things simple and tried to hit the glove,’’ he said. “Ball and glove; ball and glove.’’
The Padres scored two more runs in the third inning. They earned those as Maybin had an RBI single and scored on a double by Hundley.
San Diego starter Mat Latos had better control than Aceves, but not appreciably better results.
The righthander, who was facing the Sox for the first time in his career, allowed an RBI double by Kevin Youkilis in the first inning. In the third inning, Josh Reddick led off with a triple and scored on a single to center by Jacoby Ellsbury.
After Dustin Pedroia walked, Adrian Gonzalez lined a shot up the middle that Latos knocked down. The runners, who had to freeze on the line drive, were helpless. Latos threw to third to get Ellsbury and Headley threw to second to get Pedroia.
Latos walked Saltalamacchia with one out in the fourth before Marco Scutaro singled to left. Reddick followed with a rocket to center that struck the wall with a thud loud enough to be heard throughout the ballpark.
Saltalamacchia scored as Scutaro stopped at third. Ellsbury struck out for the second out, but Pedroia walked to keep the inning going. With the bases loaded, Gonzalez came to the plate.
Gonzalez relishes such situations. But the man with the most RBIs in baseball struck out looking at a high fastball.
The Sox tied the game in the sixth. Scutaro led off with a single and advanced to third when Ellsbury reached on an infield single and the throw from Headley rolled away,
With Pedroia up, Ellsbury tried to steal second and was thrown out easily by Hundley. Ellsbury has been caught 10 times this season, two shy of his career worst when he stole 70 bases in 2009.
After Latos walked Pedroia, Chad Qualls faced Gonzalez. This time, he delivered by grounding an RBI single into right field.
The Sox missed a chance for more when Youkilis popped to second. He was 4 for 4 otherwise.
The Padres took the lead in the seventh. After Dan Wheeler loaded the bases, Rizzo hit a grounder to first base off Daniel Bard. The ball was hit too slowly for Gonzalez to make a play at the plate.
“A lot of things happened,’’ Aceves said. “But we still had a chance.’’