|While on his seat, Mike Lowell brings fans out of theirs after the third baseman snared Chris Snyder's liner. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Within seconds, it was red and purple. The eye was swelling, and shutting, leaving manager Terry Francona and his training staff with little choice. Kevin Youkilis couldn't bat with one eye open and no depth perception, so he would have to leave. He walked off the field and into the dugout, with Brandon Moss jogging over to first base in his stead.
And there it was, three innings later. Moss's moment. Except he bobbled the ball.
With Sean Casey beginning his three-game suspension for his part in the June 5 brawl against the Rays, Moss was the only first baseman left in the Red Sox dugout last night. But he's still learning the position, and it showed.
At first base for the first time in his major league career, Moss mishandled a grounder that might have been turned into an out at the plate, the second run scoring in what would become a 2-1 loss to the Diamondbacks in front of 37,694 at Fenway Park.
That left Josh Beckett a loser in a pitchers' duel with Dan Haren, who held the Sox to two hits over seven innings.
"I went to go field it, I saw the guy take off for home, so I kind of took my eyes off of it at the last second," Moss said. "It just bobbled around and ticked off.
"I've played there all year [at Triple A Pawtucket]. I've been taking ground balls there. It couldn't have been an easier ground ball, either. That's the most frustrating thing about it. It wasn't like it was a tough ball to field."
One run had already scored in the seventh inning, the first for either team, and there were runners on second and third. That was when Chris Snyder grounded to the substitute first baseman, who did manage to get the out at first. Still, it meant the second - and ultimately winning - run scored. The runner at third, Mark Reynolds was off with contact. Moss said he was sure, on a clean play, he would have had him.
"We got the ground ball," Francona said. "It just didn't stay in his glove. Probably trying to do it a little too quick."
But that saga started back before the fifth inning, when Mike Lowell made a most unfortunate throw to first base while the infielders were warming up. The ball caromed off the dirt and off Youkilis's glove and struck him just below his right eye, which immediately began swelling and turning colors.
"I feel terrible about it," Lowell said. "I short-hopped him. I probably short-hop him five times a game in between innings. It wasn't even a hard throw. I kind of lobbed it and he went to scoop it and it hit off his glove.
"I thought it hit him in the side of his head. Afterwards I saw him, he was shaken up and touching his eye. I was just hoping it didn't hit him in the eye. He got a pretty big shiner pretty quick."
The training staff immediately ran to first base to examine Youkilis. And that was it. He was headed for a precautionary CT scan, which was negative.
That wasn't the only potential injury in the game, though. A ball off the bat of Manny Ramírez in the eighth inning was hit so hard that Reynolds, the third baseman, keeled over as he caught it. It was a wicked shot, no question. A ball that, had it been a few feet toward the line, could have tied the game, given that it came with Jacoby Ellsbury on second and Dustin Pedroia on first.
"He almost killed the third baseman," Lowell said. "I think we would have preferred that being 3 feet to the left or to the right. We would have been at least tied. That's the problem. He hit it hard, can't put a steering wheel on it afterwards."
So, other than a "5L" on the scorecard, Ramírez had nothing to show for the at-bat against Arizona reliever Tony Pena. And the Sox had little to show for the inning. Just a sacrifice fly from J.D. Drew, a one-run deficit and, ultimately, a hard-luck loss for them and Beckett.
Both Beckett - who went eight innings and saved a suffering bullpen - and Haren were magnificent. Through six innings, the teams had combined for just four hits, with the Sox getting one and the Diamondbacks three.
As for the one hit allowed by Haren, it came from a most unusual source: Jason Varitek. The catcher had been mired in the worst slump of his career, an 0-for-24 drought (and just 9 for his last 75 coming into the night). But Varitek doubled in the third, about the only offense the Sox mustered through those six innings.
Things changed in the seventh, with Arizona going up by two runs. The Sox had a chance in the bottom of the inning, with men on first and second with one out. But Moss hit a dribbler to the pitcher, which advanced the runners, and Varitek struck out swinging. So even with one run in the eighth, there would be no comeback on this night.
Even with Haren off the mound.
"That might have been as good of stuff as Danny's had all year," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin. "Ninety-four, 95, I don't think we've seen that all year. Good breaking ball, good split. He threw enough cutters inside of lefties, away from righties. Elevated his fastball about as good as we've seen - and he had to be that good."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com