After early surge, Red Sox flattened with game on line
Most of the excitement had been whittled away at Fenway Park last night as the center-field clock neared four hours of baseball.
But all it took was a single to center off the bat of Julio Lugo to get 36,908 to their feet in anticipation of a comeback.
When Dustin Pedroia walked, the roar was palpable. "Papi! Papi! Papi!"
"It never fails when those guys roll around somehow," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. "Sometimes we think they must bat out of turn or something."
But that was as far as it went, the tantalizing duo of Ortiz and Ramírez flying out as the Blue Jays defeated the Sox, 6-5.
"That's the way we want it, get a couple on, down by one run, with our best hitters up," Pedroia said. "Nine out of 10 times, we win."
And it wasn't just bad news for the Sox on the field. Ortiz's torn meniscus, J.D. Drew's tightness in his right hamstring, and Brendan Donnelly's recurrence of right forearm tightness in a rehab outing are enough to leave manager Terry Francona begging for mercy.
On a night in which Julian Tavarez threw 101 pitches in just four innings plus, the bullpen didn't come through as it has throughout the season, Kyle Snyder giving up two runs in the sixth to let the game slip away.
Tavarez, who had lost his last three starts, needed 36 pitches to get through a third inning that spiraled downward after Reed Johnson was hit by a pitch on an 0-and-2 count. Five of the next six batters reached safely, starting with a double to left by Alex Rios (3 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI). After Johnson scored on a wild pitch, Frank Thomas walked and Troy Glaus singled to right, scoring Rios. Lyle Overbay's single and Aaron Hill's fielder's choice each scored another run and the Blue Jays had a 4-2 lead.
Gregg Zaun's double ended the inning, although it took Tavarez 36 pitches and a Ramírez-to-Lugo-to-Jason Varitek relay to erase Hill at the plate.
"We've got to get [Tavarez] back to having that two-seamer with the life through the zone," Francona said. "When he's doing that, then he can mix in the breaking ball to change up, get guys off balance, get the ground balls."
But the Red Sox -- staked to a 2-0 lead on Ramírez's homer in the first, his 12th of the season and fourth in games pitched by Tavarez -- regained the lead with three runs in their half of the inning, capped by a two-run triple by Mike Lowell. Snyder put the Red Sox in a hole in the sixth, allowing a walk and back-to-back doubles. The second double, by Rios, bounced on the warning track behind a shallow-playing Ramírez and gave the Blue Jays a 6-5 lead.
Yet even with four pitchers needed to get through the last five innings, the Sox had a chance in the ninth on a big assist from Mike Timlin, who was perfect in 2 1/3 innings.
And the Sox had the two batters they would have hand-picked -- as Gibbons jokingly suggested -- to win it in the ninth.
"That's baseball," Timlin said. "These guys, they're human. God gives them great ability, but we can't win every game. We had all the dominoes in place, they just didn't fall the right way for us."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.