Playing with heavy hearts, Angels dominate Red Sox
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The familiar notes of Train's "Calling All Angels" filtered through the park. This was as it always is: Angel Stadium, the sun setting in the Southern California sky, the players on both sides milling around. This time, though, the Angels stood in their dugout and wrapped their arms around the railing and raised their eyes. The Red Sox stood beside their dugout and raised theirs.
The images began cycling through the video board, the footage of Nick Adenhart on the mound, his life cut short just hours after he pitched Wednesday night.
The clapping began, from the Angels and the Red Sox and the sellout crowd of 41,385. They did what they could do, in the moment, to celebrate the rookie killed in a car accident. It was their first opportunity since the Angels walked off the field Wednesday, since Adenhart walked off for the last time.
Torii Hunter and John Lackey walked to the mound, their teammates along the third base line, the Red Sox along the first base line. They held a No. 34 jersey.
They held a moment of silence. Mike Scioscia, leaving the field after it was over, crossed himself.
And Hunter, in the outfield to begin the game, jogged over to the picture of Adenhart posted on the center-field wall and tapped it.
Baseball could begin.
"It was emotional," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "You hear the words 'Play ball,' it's like, 'Whoa.' The Angels, they've always had a lot of class, and it showed."
Once last night's game started, things did not begin well for the Sox, and their fortunes never turned around in a 6-3 loss.
Tim Wakefield didn't throw a first-pitch strike to the first eight batters he faced, loading the bases in the first inning with two outs on two walks and a hit batter. Pitching coach John Farrell made his first visit to the mound.
And though Wakefield induced an inning-ending foul pop to catcher George Kottaras, there was more trouble in the second.
Three runs came across on an RBI double by Chone Figgins and a two-run single by Howie Kendrick. But the Angels missed a chance for more as third base coach Dino Ebel held Kendrick up when he likely would have had time to score as Jacoby Ellsbury fielded a Bobby Abreu single to center. That was followed by a double-play ball by Vladimir Guerrero that got Wakefield out of the inning.
"I just wasn't finding my location very well," Wakefield said. "I just got ahead of myself. It was a battle all night. Tried to do my best and make the pitches when I needed to. Couple flares fell in, scored three runs, and that was it."
The debut of the Wakefield-Kottaras tandem started out rocky as a ball ticked off the catcher's glove on a steal by Abreu. That was followed by steals by Kendrick, Figgins, and another by Abreu with Justin Masterson on in relief, making the Angels 4 for 4 against Kottaras.
But as the Angels were tearing over the basepaths, Wakefield was settling down to give the Sox some serviceable innings. And the Sox crept closer, drawing within 3-1 in the third when Ellsbury singled, stole second, went to third on catcher Jeff Mathis's throwing error, and scored on a guided missile of a sacrifice fly by David Ortiz.
Still, by the time Farrell made his way out to the mound again in the fifth, this time after Hunter walked, Wakefield had issued six passes on five walks and a hit batter.
The bases were loaded, and the Sox were in danger of seeing this one spiral out of control. But Kendry Morales flied out to right, Gary Matthews popped to first, and Mathis laced a line drive to Jason Bay in left.
Wakefield allowed himself a small fist pump as he walked off the mound.
"First four innings, and I think he got into the fifth before he was almost even with balls and strikes," Francona said of his knuckleballer. "Then got the bases loaded, then he really started pounding the zone. His ball came out and it was moving, just probably wasn't enough strikes. Fifty-fifty right up until that point."
After 6 2/3 innings of mostly brilliant work, Angels starter Jered Weaver was chased by a line single to left by Mike Lowell, just the fourth hit the righthander allowed. He walked off the mound, serenaded by a standing ovation, and just before he got to the dugout, he pointed skyward. There was no mistaking the intent of the gesture.
In the seventh, the Angels expanded the lead to 6-1 against Masterson. Hunter touched him for a sacrifice fly, and Mathis sneaked a single between shortstop and third for two more runs.
The Sox benefited from a throwing error by third baseman Figgins on Kevin Youkilis's infield single in the eighth, which cut the deficit in half. But they never got closer as they fell two games below .500 for the first time since April 13, 2005.
Through the first four games, the Sox have scored only 13 runs and have just one win. Neither the pitching nor the offense has been there.
"It's early in the season and pitchers are throwing their offspeed pitches for strikes in fastball counts, and we're still swinging at fastballs," Francona said.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.