Swings of game don't go Sox' way again
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Mike Lowell doesn't want to take it back. Faced with a 2-0 count, with an extremely wild Scot Shields on the mound, and the bases loaded in a one-run game, he thinks it was the right thing to do and the right situation in which to do it. He would, as he said, swing again.
"Looking for one pitch, one spot," Lowell said. "I got it, took a good swing, and the result was obviously not too satisfying. But if I'm in that situation again, I would do exactly the same thing. Hopefully with a different result. But I took away the corners, I looked middle, I looked top, belt high, and that's exactly where it was. My timing was there. I guess it wasn't in the cards. But that was exactly the pitch I wanted in that situation."
Or as manager Terry Francona said, "I'm OK with that. I wanted him to hit that ball in their bullpen."
He didn't, though. With the bases full after David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Bay had all reached on walks, Lowell popped up the 91-mile-per-hour fastball to third baseman Chone Figgins in foul territory for the second out of the eighth inning. Jason Varitek flied out on the next pitch to end the threat, but it was the one to Lowell that was just so close.
Like most of the Sox games this season - just close enough to lose. Through six games, two losing series against the Rays and Angels, the Red Sox have won only twice, falling 5-4 yesterday to Los Angeles at Angel Stadium in front of 38,076. Three of their four losses have been by fewer than three runs.
"If we were losing 10-4 every day, there would be a problem," Youkilis said. "We're in every game pretty much. If it comes down to one swing drives in a run to win or tie the game, that's where you've got to be."
But, to starter Josh Beckett, the prob lems are more stark.
"We've got to play better," he said. "We've got to pitch better. We've got to do everything better."
Not only did Lowell miss the pitch in the eighth, J.D. Drew couldn't come through in the ninth in another chance at a win. With the Sox down, 5-3, going into the inning - courtesy of a Vladimir Guerrero shot to left to lead off the eighth off Hideki Okajima - Ortiz got the Sox back within one when he drove in Nick Green (hit by pitch) with a single to left on a 3-2 pitch with two outs. Youkilis lined a single to put two men on for Drew, a situation that has been extremely unproductive for the Sox in the early going.
And Drew watched a called third strike from Brian Fuentes, dropping the Sox an even .100 (3 for 30) with two or more runners on base, according to Maniacal One, statistician Chuck Waseleski.
"Probably a little too close to take," Drew said. "I thought it was [outside]. That's just my gut reaction, especially after the slider down and away. I felt like the fastball was away. Tough pitch to handle."
The Sox stranded 10 in a winnable game with their ace on the mound. It wasn't just Lowell and Drew in the eighth and ninth, there were also two double plays hit into by Dustin Pedroia, a failed bunt attempt by Green, and a strikeout by Lowell with two on in the sixth.
"We gave ourselves some opportunities," Francona said. "We didn't cash in. We had them on the ropes a couple times and couldn't come up with a big hit. Because of that, we end up down by one."
While the Sox went out with a whimper - the called strike on Drew - they started with a bang. In the first inning, with Bobby Abreu at the plate awaiting a pitch, plate umpire Paul Schrieber called time. But Beckett was in his windup, his arm back to release the pitch.
It got released all right, the ball missing Abreu's face by inches, which didn't sit well with Abreu.
The right fielder began arguing with the umpire, and Beckett began yapping at him from the mound, finally walking slowly toward home plate. Both players were held back and the tensions seemed about to dissipate. Until, that is, the Angels' Justin Speier and Torii Hunter went crazy, both having to be restrained by teammate Howie Kendrick.
That was it for Hunter and Speier, who were tossed. But that was not it for the complaints, with Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who had jawed with Beckett, getting ejected from the dugout by third base umpire Ed Rapuano, before returning to the field to throw a few complaints the way of second base umpire Joe West. Mickey Hatcher, the Angels' hitting coach, also was thrown out.
"Did he throw it up and in? Yeah," said crew chief West. "Do we believe he threw it at Abreu? No."
So even with back-to-back homers in the second (Youkilis and Drew) and another run in the sixth on a bad throw to second by Mike Napoli on a Pedroia-Youkilis double steal, the Sox were a run short at the end.
"I wish our record was better for the first week," said Francona before his team headed for Oakland last night. "It's not. So hopefully we'll make the next couple days count."