Johnson, Marlins keep Sox reeling
MIAMI - When the third run crossed the plate in the bottom of the first inning for the Marlins Monday night, the only question was what the final score would be.
The Red Sox are fresh out of fight, a team reduced to praising the opposing pitcher and issuing vague promises to try harder in the next game. A three-run deficit is a hole without escape these days.
“There’s a lot of frustration. We know we’re better than that,’’ Jarrod Saltalamacchia said after a 4-1 loss.
But are they? Since the season started April 5, the Sox have been over .500 for a total of eight days and in last place for all but one.
They have lost four straight and seven of their last eight. At 29-32, the Sox are 6 1/2 games behind the Rays and Yankees in the American League East.
Josh Johnson (4-4) and two relievers held the Sox to five hits, three of them by Scott Podsednik. He was the only runner who made it beyond second base.
The Sox have scored 25 runs in their last eight games while hitting a collective .221 with 68 strikeouts and four home runs.
“We don’t have a lot of options on the lineup,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine, referencing a roster of mismatched pieces. “We’re trying to get guys in motion once in a while. We need that homer; we need that bloop, one of the two.’’
Josh Beckett (4-7) gave up four runs in the first two innings, snuffing out whatever competitive fire might have been lit.
Beckett, in what has become a habit, didn’t stick around to talk about it, leaving the clubhouse before the media was allowed in.
Beckett’s first game at Marlins Park was a significant one here. The righthander was with the Marlins from 2001-05 and won 41 games in addition to the clinching game of the 2003 World Series against the Yankees. Monday was Beckett’s first game against his former team.
Beckett gave up four runs on six hits before retiring 16 of his final 17 batters. He left Saltalamacchia to talk about the uneven effort.
“His ball was moving a lot,’’ the catcher said. “They had a few weak singles.’’
Jose Reyes, who turned 29 Monday, started the first inning with a triple, the sizzling line drive splitting the right fielder and center fielder and rolling all the way to the wall. It was his fourth of the season.
Donovan Solano’s fly ball to right field scored Reyes.
With two outs, Giancarlo Stanton singled up the middle. Logan Morrison then doubled to right.
Third base coach Joe Espada was going to hold Stanton at third but sent him when Adrian Gonzalez bobbled the ball transferring it from his glove.
It was the second error Gonzalez has made in 13 starts in right field.
Gaby Sanchez tacked on a third run with an RBI single to right-center.
The Marlins, who had lost six straight, scored another two-out run in the second inning. John Buck singled and was bunted to second by Johnson. After Reyes grounded out, Solano punched a single into left. Solano, a 24-year-old rookie second baseman, had three RBIs in 13 previous games.
Beckett allowed six hits with one walk and struck out five. He came into the game pitching well, having allowed nine earned runs in his previous 22 innings.
The key for Johnson was working out trouble in the first inning, something Beckett could not do.
Podsednik started the game with a single up the middle and stole second. Dustin Pedroia then drew a walk, setting the table for Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Saltalamacchia.
Gonzalez had a long at-bat but struck out swinging at a fastball on the eighth pitch. Ortiz then flied out to center field before Saltalamacchia did the same.
“We’re battling right now and that’s obvious,’’ Pedroia said.
Johnson had retired 13 batters in a row when he struck out Beckett to start the sixth inning. To that point he was working on a two-hit shutout.
The Sox stirred when Podsednik singled to left. Pedroia followed with a double to left. It was only his second extra-base hit since May 13.
With Podsednik on third base, Gonzalez saw nine pitches from Johnson before hitting a fly ball deep to left field to drive in Podsednik.
Ortiz was next and he popped to center field. That left the Sox 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position.
Johnson went seven innings, allowing the one run on four hits. He walked one and struck out seven.
“We can get a bloop, too,’’ Valentine said. “We left five guys on base. You get that one hit that continues the inning and you get two or three to follow. We’re just not getting that one to continue the inning.’’
There was one positive for the Sox as the game marked the return of Mark Melancon to the majors. The setup man allowed 11 runs over four innings in his first four appearances and was sent to the minors. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
“Important? I don’t know. It’s nice to be back,’’ said Melancon, who showed a willingness to pitch inside that was missing in April.
In a quiet clubhouse, Pedroia maintained his optimism.
“We’re frustrated, everybody is. We want to win,’’ he said.
“We’ve got guys that care. We expect to do something special. We’re going to continue to work and try and be a great team.’’