A dumbfounded Keith Foulke stared into the sky beyond the left-field wall as Miguel Tejada's eighth-inning home run crashed into the Sports Authority sign atop the Monster last night, turning an 8-7 Sox lead into a 9-8 disadvantage. As Tejada rounded the bases, Foulke continued to gaze, stunned, it seems, by his recent futility.
It was Foulke's eighth pitch of the evening, a 74 mile-per-hour changeup on an 0-and-2 count. His 21st pitch, an 86-mile-per-hour fastball to Javy Lopez, left the yard in similarly urgent fashion, touching down in the Monster seats. That sent the Orioles to an 11-8 victory before 35,670, the largest regular-season crowd at Fenway Park since Sept. 28, 1990. It was Foulke's third loss of the season and first blown save.
"We're frustrated with him," said manager Terry Francona, whose team coughed up leads of 5-1 and 8-3. "We lost some pretty significant leads tonight."
As the Lopez homer exited the park, Foulke swung his arm in the air and looked at catcher Jason Varitek.
Foulke hadn't appeared in any of the Sox' previous four games, so the lack of work might have affected him. "Yeah, but I'm not going to insinuate anything before I talk to Keith," Varitek said.
Johnny Damon had his own theory, one tied to the fact that the Sox have played all 21 games this season against division opponents.
"Everyone says the Red Sox have Mariano Rivera's number," Damon said. "Keith has thrown a lot of games against the American League East lately. We have to figure that out. Hopefully, he's not tipping pitches. He's going to have to figure that out and hopefully [pitching coach] Dave Wallace will help him figure that out."
Foulke didn't record an out until his 16th pitch, a Sammy Sosa lineout to center. His ERA, already at 4.00 coming in, ballooned to 7.20. He's allowed 20 base runners in 10 innings. Overall, Baltimore pounded Sox pitching for 20 hits, the most allowed by Boston since July 24, 2003, vs. Tampa Bay (21 hits).
Sox starter Matt Clement, meanwhile, was furious with himself for his 4 2/3 innings. It was Clement and Baltimore starter Rodrigo Lopez who engaged in a captivating display of pitching last week at Camden Yards. Each went eight innings, and only Lopez allowed a run, and it was unearned.
But last night, the Clement-Lopez combined line read: 8 IP, 19 hits, 15 earned runs, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts.
Clement was roughed up for seven runs, more runs than he'd allowed all season. (In 25 1/3 innings, he'd allowed just six earned runs.) He came in with a 2.13 ERA, sixth best in the league. That climbed to 3.90. He also came in averaging 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, fourth in the league, but struck out just one.
Francona lifted Clement with an 8-5 lead and two outs in the fifth, meaning he was one out shy of qualifying for the win. He won just nine games last season despite a 3.68 ERA with the Cubs, so wins can be a sensitive topic.
Clement put his hands on his knees and took a breath. He stared off into the third-base stands. Then he handed the ball to his manager without looking at him and skipped off to the dugout.
"I wanted the chance to finish the fifth," Clement said. "Tito coming out knows I want the chance to finish the fifth. At the same time, I didn't do a lot to deserve to finish the fifth."
Clement gave up a career-high 13 hits, something he called "uncharted territory."
Usually when he struggles, "it's five, six walks, three hit batsmen, a wild pitch, six, seven, eight hits," said Clement.
With two men on, Alan Embree relieved him and immediately surrendered a double to the No. 9 hitter, Larry Bigbie. That made it 8-7.
"I feel like I blew it for the guys," said Clement. "If you have a lead like that in the major leagues, you have to win. I put Embree in a position he's not used to being in. I put [Mike] Timlin in a position he's not used to being in. And Foulke in the eighth."
The Sox had hit well early, pining a five-spot on Lopez in a second inning in which they sent 10 men to the plate. Bill Mueller, who's been devastated by sickness for a full week, fisted a two-run single just over shortstop. Damon (13 for 22 in the last five games) doubled, knocking in another run. And Manny Ramirez singled, scoring two more.
Ramirez knocked in three more runs in the fourth with a homer, tying Paul Konerko, Brian Roberts, and David Ortiz for the AL lead with seven.
But Baltimore scored eight unanswered runs and its bullpen pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a game that lasted a brutal 4 hours 3 minutes. "They scored eight unanswered runs," said Damon. "We stopped hitting and they didn't. We're a bit banged up. We definitely can't wait till the off-day [Thursday]."