Met with resistance
Defense, opponents hurt Red Sox
Seemingly uninterested in speaking after the game, Julio Lugo sat in front of his locker as two reporters approached him. "I've got nothing for you guys," he said as he continued getting dressed.
He was asked about a double play he couldn't turn in the fourth inning. The shortstop looked up the second time the question was posed.
"I was trying to stay on the bag and get the first one first, before we do anything," Lugo said quietly. Asked whether he was caught flat-footed on the throw to first base, he said, "I made a throw over there. He just beat it."
Jeremy Reed may even have beaten a stronger throw to first base in an inning in which the Mets scored three time to take a 4-1 lead, but Lugo's double play partner had a different view of how things played out as the Red Sox fell, 5-3, in their first interleague game of the season.
"We just didn't turn it," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We have to turn that double play in that situation. That's obvious. Everyone knows that. It just didn't happen."
Later, when asked about the performance of Daisuke Matsuzaka in his first start since April 14, Pedroia said, "We didn't really help him. We have to turn that double play. That was the biggest thing. That double play is turned, we win the game."
"I'd like to go look at it again," said manager Terry Francona. "It looked to me like Lugie got flat-footed, and then didn't give him a chance to come across the bag and get some momentum on the throw. Because he got flat-footed, it looked like there wasn't enough on the throw."
One run already had come across in the fourth, when David Wright singled in Carlos Beltran. Instead of a double play ending the inning with the Mets up, 2-1, Reed reached on a fielder's choice. Singles by Omir Santos and Ramon Martinez followed, each driving in a run.
Though the Sox answered in the bottom of the inning, when an error by Martinez at shortstop on a ball hit by Jason Varitek brought two runs home, it wasn't enough. Because Johan Santana can solve many ills, even in a game that could have been featured in a how-not-to video.
Santana was involved in a tense moment in the fifth, when he exchanged words with Kevin Youkilis after hitting him on the hand with a pitch. Youkilis had said, "[Expletive], that hurt," but maintained he was joking. Santana didn't like it, but tempers quickly settled.
The defenses did not. In addition to the Sox' crucial failed double play, and a bobble by Pedroia in the fifth, the Mets were charged with three errors, two by Martinez.
"We battled through somewhat porous defense," said Mets manager Jerry Manuel. "It would have been frustrating. And I assume at some point that [Santana] has got to be getting frustrated. He's making pitches, and he's executing his pitches. We're not executing on our end defensively."
Manuel doesn't have many choices, not with Jose Reyes out of the lineup with a calf injury. "I don't know at this point," Manuel said of whether Martinez would play shortstop again today. "That's the problem that I have."
Matsuzaka, meanwhile, made an efficient return to the mound for the Sox. Though he took the loss, this start was far better than his last, as he went five innings, allowing four runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out four.
"Sixteen of 22 first-pitch strikes," Francona said. "I thought his ball had some life. After that, he gave up the two singles where we're trying to stop the bleeding, and they weren't hit hard.
"We wanted to keep him somewhere around 80 [pitches], but we were very encouraged with his outing."
There was one first-pitch strike, though, that Matsuzaka would like back. On the first pitch of the second inning, Gary Sheffield homered to left, putting the Mets on the board.
Varitek matched Sheffield's homer in the bottom of the inning, tying it at 1. The Sox' catcher entered the game batting .444 against Santana with eight hits in 18 career at-bats, including a home run.
Varitek was a factor in the Sox' other two runs scoring. He hit a rocket to shortstop in the fourth, and the ball hit off Martinez and went into left field. J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell scored on the play.
"I think it kind of cut, you know?" Martinez said. "It was a hard-hit ball, but I should have made that play."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.