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Bullpen thrown for a tough loss

Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito heads back to the mound after Oakland's Rajai Davis (background, left) scored a run in the 11th inning. (Jim Davis / Globe Staff) Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito heads back to the mound after Oakland's Rajai Davis (background, left) scored a run in the 11th inning.
By Ben Collins
Globe Correspondent / July 29, 2009

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In his most recent outing, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon loaded the bases in a 3-1 game against Baltimore, but escaped unscathed. In his last appearance against the Oakland A’s, July 8, he entered with a two-run lead, surrendered one run and put the winning run on base before striking out Jack Cust to end the game.

Last night, Papelbon couldn’t get out of trouble against the A’s. Instead, he entered the ninth inning with a three-run lead and left with the contest tied, blowing the save opportunity in a 9-8, 11th-inning loss at Fenway Park.

When he was given a chance to explain, he was remorseful but not one to dwell on the outcome.

“What are you going to do? That’s just the way I look at it. It is what it is,’’ Papelbon said. “I’ve got to come back [today] ready to pitch. I probably could have done better.’’

Papelbon was rocky right from the start, walking leadoff hitter Jack Cust on six pitchesIn all, he threw 21 pitches, 15 for strikes. It was his third blown save of the season and he gave up a season-high three runs, two of them earned.

“I walked the leadoff batter. That’s not what I was trying to do,’’ Papelbon said. “That was the only at-bat I wasn’t able to make a pitch I wanted to make.’’

With two outs, Tommy Everidge doubled home Cust. Then a series of infield hits, ripped deep into the hole, were compounded by consecutive throwing errors by Nick Green. The last of the singles scored Mark Ellis and tied the score. When Papelbon was done, in one inning of work, he gave up three runs on three hits and a walk.

“With two outs, I’ve got to be able to finish the game,’’ Papelbon said.

It was a tough night for the bullpen overall. Its scoreless streak was snapped at 25 1/3 innings when Ramon Ramirez yielded a run in the seventh inning. The seven runs allowed by the pen marked the most since it gave up eight July 11 against Kansas City. It was the bullpen’s first loss since July 9 against the Royals.

Though he’s usually a pitcher the Sox can bank on, for a night, it just wasn’t working for Papelbon.

“I thought I had good stuff tonight, but they were just able to put together some at-bats,’’ he said. “I’ll move on.’’

There was no mention of distractions. Management spent the day responding candidly to comments made by Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Japanese media that were critical of how the team dealt with Matsuzaka’s pitching regimen.

So Francona, at the end of the night, came out in defense of one of his own.

“We got to the ninth with Pap and a lot of things had happened to get there,’’ said the manager. “But we feel pretty good about the game when that happens. I thought Pap’s stuff tonight was explosive.’’

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