Angels' Palmer stops Sox
ANAHEIM, Calif. - In the late innings of last night's game, Jason Bay looked up at the scoreboard and was puzzled. "I was like, 'We've had five hits for a while,' " he said. His single, the Red Sox' fifth hit, had come way back in the third. "That was the last hit, wasn't it?" he asked after the game.
It was the last hit. All five of the Sox' hits, including Bay's two-run home run, had come before the second out of the third. Matt Palmer, who had six career major league starts going into last night's game, pitched a complete game in which he mowed down the final 19 batters.
Palmer walked off the mound after striking out Julio Lugo to end the eighth to a standing ovation from the 35,666 at Angel Stadium last night. He left to another one in the ninth, as the Angels prevailed, 8-4. Through three innings, it appeared that Tim Wakefield was going to have the easy night, and Palmer was headed for the early shower. Then something changed.
"The adjustment was [manager Mike] Scioscia telling me I better not give up any more runs," Palmer said. "That was the adjustment."
Even with the brief highlights - Bay's homer and Daniel Bard's major league debut - there was not much going on for Boston. That was Palmer's doing.
"We came out swinging really well, and then the switch," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "We went from [looking] like we were going to get in the bullpen early to nothing. He started throwing his breaking ball for strikes. You could tell by his body language, he was working quick, how good he was feeling. He just stopped us."
But the one thing that the deficit brought was a chance to use Bard in a situation that wasn't pressure-packed.
He entered in the sixth, with the Angels ahead, 7-4, and runners on second and third and no outs.
"To be honest with you, I thought there was just a guy on second until the third pitch I threw," Bard said. "Then I looked over and saw [Torii] Hunter on third."
The first pitch of his career was a 94-mile-per-hour fastball. Angels catcher Mike Napoli swung through it. The second was a 95-m.p.h. fastball. Napoli swung through it. The third was clocked at 97. Again, Napoli swung through it.
Though both Francona and Brad Penny have gone on record as saying that the radar gun in Angel Stadium is slow, it hardly mattered to the batters facing Bard.
"He kind of blew my doors off a little bit there," Napoli said. "He's got pretty easy cheese. He brings it up there pretty good, pretty firm. From what I saw, he has pretty good stuff."
He allowed a sacrifice fly to Juan Rivera, but got Howie Kendrick to ground out.
Bard returned for the seventh and gave up his first hit, a line single to center with one out by Chone Figgins. After Reggie Willits popped out, Bard walked Bobby Abreu, but got Hunter to hit into a fielder's choice.
After the Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Bay's two-run homer in the first, and an RBI double by Nick Green and a run-scoring ground out by Jacoby Ellsbury in the second, Wakefield gave it back and more in the third.
The Angels scored five times in the inning, the big hit a three-run homer by Napoli, who improved to 6 for 12, with three of his six homers in four games against the Sox this season. It was the just the second homer Wakefield had given up since Sept. 23.
Willits led off the inning with an infield single and stole second. Wakefield walked Abreu, then Hunter and Kendry Morales singled, each driving in a run. Then came the blast.
Napoli smashed the pitch over the center-field fence, as the Angels took a one-run lead. Hunter added a solo shot in the fourth inning, upping the Sox' deficit to two. With the homer, Hunter was 16 for 41 (.390) for his career against Wakefield, with a double and four home runs.
"A couple counts that I was ahead in, I gave up base hits," said Wakefield, who allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. "That shouldn't happen. The offense scored four runs early, gave me a comfortable lead, and I couldn't hold it. It was one of those days, just try to grind it out and it didn't work."