|Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew sprained his left wrist while trying for this Freddie Bynum single in the third inning and was forced to leave the game. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)|
Shorthanded Sox lose third straight and fall out of first
BALTIMORE - They began the game without their manager because of a death in the family. The right fielder came out in the third inning with a sprained left wrist. The center fielder left three innings later with an upset stomach/nasty headache, followed shortly thereafter by the starting pitcher for no discernible medical reason, unless an aggravated ego qualifies.
Pennsylvania plowhorse Sean Casey wound up batting leadoff for substitute manager Brad Mills, who was filling in for Terry Francona. Kevin Youkilis, an infielder by trade, played right field for the first time in the big leagues.
"I thought he was jogging to get loose, but then he didn't go back," said Jacoby Ellsbury, who started the game on the bench, went to right when J.D. Drew hurt his wrist, and wound up in center when Coco Crisp took ill ("I don't feel like talking," Crisp said, closing his eyes as he stretched out on a clubhouse couch. "I'll tell you tomorrow.").
There would be one more unscheduled departure before the Sox lost, 5-4, to the Orioles before 38,768 in Oriole Park at Camden Yards last night. David Ortiz was ejected after plate umpire Laz Diaz ruled that Big Papi did not hold back his swing on a pitch up and in from Orioles closer George Sherrill in the ninth inning.
It was Ortiz's seventh career ejection, fourth with the Red Sox, and first without a clue that he'd been tossed. Play was held up after crew chief Wally Bell, from his position at first base, noted that Ortiz had not vacated the visitors' dugout.
"I said, 'Hey Lazaro, I was just getting out of the way,' " Ortiz said. "I didn't throw the bat, I dropped it. I didn't cuss or anything. I didn't know he threw me out of the game.
"I went to the video - my bat never left my shoulder, but I had to get out of the way."
Ortiz was gone, and moments later everyone else left, too, after Manny Ramírez flied out and Mike Lowell went down swinging.
And while the Sox were left counting healthy bodies - Drew's condition appeared the most worrisome, as he sported a removable splint and talked about some "rotational issues" in the wrist - they also found themselves looking up at the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.
With the Sox losing their third straight game and fourth in five nights, the Rays slipped into first, a half-game ahead of Boston, after beating the Yankees in extra innings for their sixth win in a row.
"Go home," Ramírez good-naturedly urged reporters waiting for Ortiz, even making an effort at herding them away from Ortiz's locker. "We turned the page."
Although the Sox were shorthanded, the game still appeared primed to turn in their favor, even after Josh Beckett gave back a three-run first-inning lead when Luke "Baby Boomer" Scott launched a three-run home run for the Orioles to cap a four-run third.
The Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh for Ramírez, who these days is swinging for history, even though he still runs the bases like a man who has never given posterity a second thought. Only one player in the game's annals has ever had more big swings with the bases fully occupied than Ramírez, who has 20 grand slams, three fewer than Lou Gehrig.
Facing Ramírez was one James Johnson, a 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound rookie righthander who had pitched as many big league innings as Gehrig had hit slams.
If ever a moment seemed intended to be caught on a daguerreotype, this was it. But in an exquisite 10-pitch battle, one Johnson started off with a curveball before pumping mostly 95-mile-an-hour fastballs, the kid prevailed. After four two-strike fouls, Johnson induced Ramírez to tap a comebacker that the pitcher converted into a home-to-first double play. When Lowell followed by flying to left, the Orioles were out of peril.
Did Johnson break Ramírez's bat? someone inquired.
"Only in 20 pieces," Ramírez said.
"I just missed my pitch. I was seeing the ball good, but he made a lot of good pitches. He's got good stuff.
"I think that's why you play the game. I like to compete; that's what it's all about. It comes around that sometimes you get them, and sometimes they get you.
"This day's done. We're going to move on."
The Sox weren't done. Johnson walked two batters in the eighth before giving up an RBI single to Alex Cora that drew the Sox within a run before Sherrill entered and retired Casey and Dustin Pedroia.
The Sox, who had lost three of four to the Twins, seemed prime to unleash some frustration on the Orioles, who cooperated by making two errors in the first inning, one each by third baseman Aubrey Huff and first baseman Kevin Millar, leading to three runs. Ortiz's opposite-field double was the big hit in the inning, and Ramírez rifled a full-count pitch from starter Jeremy Guthrie for an RBI single.
But Guthrie held the Sox to two hits until Casey and Pedroia opened the seventh with singles, signaling his departure for Jamie Walker, who threw a wild pitch before walking Ortiz to load the bases. That's when Johnson intervened.
In the meantime, the Orioles stitched together two-out singles by Scott, Adam Jones, and Jay Payton for a run off Beckett in the second, then pinned a four-spot on him in the third. Brian Roberts and Freddie Bynum singled to open the inning, Drew coming out after he bent his left wrist at a freakish angle in an unsuccessful attempt to make a shoestring catch of Bynum's ball.
Beckett whiffed Nick Markakis and Huff, but Millar lined an RBI single to left to make it 3-2, and Scott, who came from Houston in the Miguel Tejada deal, parked a 1-and-0 fastball onto Eutaw Street to make it 5-3.
Beckett, who won his first nine decisions of 2007, was 10-3 after a Sox loss last season. In similar situations this season, he is 3-3.
"The loss definitely goes in the right man's hands tonight," said Beckett, who allowed 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings, the most hits allowed by a Sox pitcher this season.