It was a nightmare. For Red Sox fans, whose faith in Eric Gagné had been shaken and shattered and virtually erased. For Gagné himself, whose days as a closer seem further and further away.
But not just for him, though it was his loss last night, 13-6 to the Indians in 11 innings, his mistakes (single to Grady Sizemore, walk to Asdrubal Cabrera) causing the Red Sox to give away Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. His successor, Javier Lopez, was more ineffective, allowing pinch-hitter Trot Nixon's go-ahead RBI single and failing to retire any of his three batters. Even Jon Lester surrendered a three-run home run.
More than the nightmare, though, it all seemed so unfair for the fans who had remained for more than five hours of baseball. Nixon, the player who couldn't hit lefties, had hit the Red Sox' lefty specialist.
Lopez was a culprit, no question. But there is no doubt Gagné will take the blame. He didn't look good in his two other postseason appearances, allowing a run in a mop-up ninth in the Division Series clincher against the Angels, and loading the bases in Game 1 against the Indians Friday night on a single, double, and walk, although he did strike out the side.
"He threw some great offspeed pitches, which I think are obvious, got the swings and misses," manager Terry Francona said of Gagné's Friday outing before last night's game. "Then at times it was the guy we've seen, maybe the losing the balance on the follow-through, the recoil on the follow-through, and the fastball up here [high]. It's a very difficult line right now. We're in the postseason and it is a little tough."
Francona said he hoped the team would have some time to "figure this out." Not enough time, clearly. Instead, forced by the extra innings and the two innings thrown by Jonathan Papelbon, Gagné had to take the ball.
It has been a long road for Gagné since the trade that brought him to Boston at the July 31 deadline. He failed almost immediately. He blew three saves, lost another game, and garnered so much enmity from the Red Sox fans that his walk home became a danger.
Shut down because of arm tenderness, Gagné appeared to be back and better as the season wound down, especially after a damaging loss in Toronto that drew the ire of fans and prompted some self-analysis. He ended his regular season with five consecutive scoreless appearances, but his struggles have reemerged in the postseason.
It all culminated in last night's loss. For Gagné. For Lopez. And for the Sox, who now head to Cleveland tied at one game apiece.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.