The rain delay lasted 2 hours 21 minutes at Fenway Park last night, but this game really was over when the storm began at 8:44 p.m.
Three errors, none bigger than Andy Dominique's in the fifth inning, spoiled Nomar Garciaparra's season debut as the San Diego Padres pinned an 8-1 loss on the Red Sox, dropping Boston 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East.
Only Johnny Damon's home run in the the eighth inning, his first since May 19, salvaged a complete offensive washout. The Sox trailed, 4-0, prior to the rain delay, then in the top of the seventh, Phil Nevin belted a two-run homer to sound the final bell of a horrible and long night for the Sox.
If the rain wasn't bad enough, the entertainment on the center-field scoreboard was the Yankees-Rockies game and Mariano Rivera bearing down in the ninth to nail down a 7-5 Yankees victory.
But Garciaparra did make a successful return to the Red Sox, going 1 for 2 and fielding his position with aplomb. He was pulled following the rain delay as a cautious measure to protect his Achilles.
"I would have loved to bring him back but it was the right thing to do," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It was wet. We had a layoff. Believe me, I would have loved to have seen him hit. We just have to keep an eye on him a little bit. We owe it to the organization, to him and ourselves."
Garciaparra said it was a little disappointing' that the rain cut short his night because "the ovation they gave me was incredible. I do truly appreciate it. I really do. I can't thank them enough. It was a special feeling."
But the feeling probably wasn't as special when couldn't make the play when Garciaparra short-hopped a throw to first that Dominique couldn't scoop up, then threw wildly to home as two runs scored. "It came up on me and popped out [of my glove]," said the infielder.
Padres starter Brian Lawrence had limited the Sox to five hits over the first five innings. Only once, in the second, did the Sox have two baserunners. Otherwise, Lawrence (8-3) was solving the Boston hitters.
"He was outstanding," Bochy said. "He pitched very well. The last thing you want to see when your starter is pitching well is a long rain delay. He did a terrific job. He's been hot."
After a standing ovation from the fans, Garciaparra stepped into the batter's box and did what he's done for years: swung at the first pitch. He fouled it off before scorching a single through the shortstop hole on the second pitch. In the field, Garciaparra started a 6-4-3 double play on catcher Ramon Hernandez' made-to-order grounder in the second inning, but in the fifth Garciaparra was involved in a fielding miscue which cost the Sox two runs. On Brian Giles's grounder in the hole with two on and one out, Garciaparra ranged far to field the ball, but his throw to first was mishandled by Dominique.
Dominique made a bid to rid himself of goat status when he sent a long fly ball to left center, but the ball hung up for Jay Payton to make the catch.
The Sox went with starter Bronson Arroyo for five innings, and he allowed six hits and two runs. He threw 90 pitches before the Sox executed their game plan and brought in Tim Wakefield. Wakefield secured the first out, but then the infield defense struck again, Bellhorn muffing Long's grounder at second.
"Bronson was much better," Francona said. "The one thing was he had a little bit of a tough time putting away innings." The Bellhorn error led to a pair of runs. Wakefield allowed a single to center by Hernandez, sending Long to third. Xavier Nady's roller to third scored Long. With two out, No. 9 hitter Greene singled off the wall, scoring Hernandez.