Sour taste in reliever's mouth
Gruesome eighth tough to swallow
Scott Sauerbeck had the look of a man attempting a quick getaway. He pulled on a T-shirt and slipped a sneaker on his left foot almost in one fluid motion. He was about to finish dressing when reporters surrounded him, looking for answers. So, with one shoe on and one foot bare, Sauerbeck fielded questions. For a pitcher who had been essentially undressed on the mound by Toronto, it was an oddly appropriate stance.
The Red Sox reliever was tagged with the loss after the Blue Jays scored five runs in the eighth inning en route to a 12-9 win that snapped the home team's winning streak at five. But Sauerbeck was not alone in culpability. Fellow reliever Scott Williamson also struggled to record an out in the eighth, though he was more successful in making a getaway than Sauerbeck; by the time the clubhouse opened to media, Williamson, along with many teammates, was long gone.
What could clear a clubhouse so quickly? Try a game in which the Sox battled back from a six-run deficit to tie, only to be let down by the bullpen.
The Sox have grown tired of talking about "the bullpen issue." The problems were thought to be largely resolved by acquisitions made close to the trading deadline. Lefthander Sauerbeck arrived from Pittsburgh July 22 and righthander Williamson came from Cincinnati July 29. But making a couple of moves in July proved easier than getting a couple of outs last night.
"It's unfortunate," said Sauerbeck. "I didn't do my job. [Tim] Wakefield got out of there early and [Jeff] Suppan did a terrific job of keeping us in the game. The guys worked their butts off to get back in it and they finally did. And to go back out there right after we tied it and to have all the momentum and let them get right back up is not acceptable."
Sauerbeck started the eighth by getting Orlando Hudson to ground out. But from there it became difficult to watch. Sauerbeck walked Mike Bordick, then Frank Catalanotto singled to left after waiting on curveball. That was all for Sauerbeck.
Williamson came in to face Vernon Wells, who promptly doubled down the left-field line to score Bordick.
After Carlos Delgado was intentionally walked, Tom Wilson grounded out, allowing Catalanotto to score. Next, Josh Phelps singled through the hole at short to score Wells. Alan Embree replaced Williamson, but two more runs scored before the Sox could escape the eighth. All told, Sauerbeck and Williamson were tagged with all five runs in the eighth, four earned.
Asked how concerned he was with the bullpen, manager Grady Little said, "Well, we have concern, but we also have confidence that they will be able to get it going. You know [Byung Hyun Kim] went through a rough week last week. It looks like he is trying to get himself turned around. I think the same will go for these other fellas."
Sauerbeck is trying to figure out just what is wrong, whether it's a question of mechanics, solid scouting by Toronto, or an unfamiliarity with American League hitters. He didn't have a hunch last night.
"Either I'm going through a rut mechanically or I just need to get out there more," he said. "I'll figure it out."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.