ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - On a night when his team desperately tried to close out the Red Sox in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, Jason Bartlett giveth and he taketh away.
The shortstop provided the Rays with an improbable solo homer off Josh Beckett that tied the game at 2 in the fifth inning.
But one inning later, after Jason Varitek homered to give the Sox a 3-2 lead, Bartlett was charged with an equally improbable throwing error on what appeared to be a routine ground out by Dustin Pedroia.
Instead of helping extricate reliever J.P. Howell from the sixth inning, Bartlett prolonged the Rays' misery when Pedroia reached on the errant throw that got past first baseman Carlos Peña. Coco Crisp, who had singled past second baseman Akinori Iwamura, went to third on the error and came home when David Ortiz followed with a single to center, giving the Sox all the runs they would need in last night's 4-2 triumph.
When he faced the media in the Rays' quiet clubhouse, Bartlett owned up to his mistake.
"I got lazy," Bartlett said. "My feet got lazy and I thought I had it pretty easy and I just let it sail."
Did the sight of Pedroia, churning hard down the line, cause him to rush his throw?
"No, actually I just saw the replay of it and I didn't know that it was actually that close," Bartlett said.
The error, the fifth of this series by the Rays, was a rarity for Bartlett, who committed 16 this season - a big improvement over 26 a year ago.
"I always pride myself on defense, so that's going to eat at me tonight," Bartlett said.
But even the error wasn't as rare as his solo homer off Beckett.
Bartlett's first postseason home run was just his second of the season, having gone deep against Baltimore's Jamie Walker in an 8-1 romp Aug. 31. Hitting out of the No. 9 hole in the order, Bartlett provided unexpected punch for a team that had mashed Sox pitching in Games 3, 4, and 5 at Fenway Park, clouting 10 homers in that span.
Bartlett battled Beckett and took his 2-and-2 offering, a 74-mile-per-hour curveball, and drove it deep down the line to left, where it stayed just fair.
"He threw two of those in my first at-bat and I was looking for a fastball," Bartlett said. "I wasn't looking for that one and he hung it there and I just reacted to it."
So, what was the greater rarity, Bartlett's homer or error?
" I don't know. I don't care to comment on that," said third baseman Evan Longoria, who made an error in the ninth inning of Game 5. "But, I mean, Bartlett's done a good job for us all year, defensively, and those things just happen. I mean, I made a big error in the last game that ended up costing us and so we all make those kind of mistakes. But I think him hitting that home run to tie the game was huge for us."
But it wasn't enough to help the Rays eliminate the Sox or stave off a decisive Game 7.
"We've got to come back tomorrow," Bartlett said.
"It's do or die now, so we're going to lay it out on the line and keep playing our game."