Rangers run over Red Sox
ARLINGTON, Texas - The final one didn’t even draw a throw. Julio Borbon chugged into second base, still standing, and Jason Varitek could do nothing.
He stayed in his crouch behind the plate, ball in hand after the pitch from Fernando Cabrera, and didn’t lift his arm.
Eight times the Rangers took off with larceny on their minds. Eight times, they were successful. With them came the energy that powered their 7-2 victory over the Red Sox last night, a win that brought them within a half-game of the Sox in the wild-card race.
The stolen bases brought the success rate against Varitek this season to 91.1 percent. Only twice in the American League this season has a team stolen eight bases in a game. It also came against Boston, in a game started by Brad Penny (last night’s starter) with Varitek behind the plate, against Tampa Bay May 3.
The final steal came in the eighth inning, long past the time the Rangers had taken the lead, and long past the time that Penny had been pulled.
The Rangers added two runs in the inning, which featured Ian Kinsler being beaned in the back of the helmet by Cabrera.
And while it would be foolish to blame only one party, whether it be Varitek or Penny, there is one indisputable fact: Runners can and have stolen bases almost at will against Boston this season.
Asked why the Sox have had such trouble keeping runners at bay, Varitek said, “You can just probably blame it on me. How’s that? No, that’s fine. I’ll take full responsibility for their ability to run.
“I have two things, try and get hitters out and make a good throw. The rest is out of my hands. That’s some of the best throws I can make. They might not be good enough.’’
“It’s probably a conglomeration of a lot of things, not one, any significant thing stood out,’’ said bench coach Brad Mills, who is largely responsible for controlling the running game. “We’ve tried to combat it in different facets. I think we’ve made adjustments. I think the biggest thing tonight - those are three pretty good runners [in Borbon, Kinsler, and Elvis Andrus]. They run, and they’re going to steal bases.’’
The Sox have instituted the normal means, slidesteps, pitchouts, pickoff throws, pitchers holding the ball longer. They have not solved the problem.
“I’ve made adjustments in how I do things, and I’ve got to do better,’’ Mills said. “That’s the way I look at it, and we’ll go from there.’’
The Rangers added to statistics that have become embarrassing for the Sox. The team has allowed 118 steals, the most in baseball by a significant margin. The 90.1 percent success rate enjoyed by Sox opponents ranks third highest all time, behind the 2007 Padres (92.9) and 2008 White Sox (90.8).
Varitek alone has allowed 90 steals this season, meaning he could break a dubious record he set in 1999, that for the most steals allowed in a season in the AL (124) by a catcher.
“Keep them off base, that’s the best way to do it,’’ Varitek said. “I can’t really answer that question. Just go out there and try and execute, make a good throw.’’
Though solid - or at least good enough to nab a couple of wins - earlier in the season, Penny has devolved. He has sunk from average to below average, winning only rarely and often putting the Sox in holes.
Over his last 10 starts, Penny has won just once, with five losses and four no-decisions.
Kinsler (just off the disabled list) got the Rangers on the board with a solo homer in the second, and Texas got another run in the inning when Brian Anderson - brought up for his ability to play excellent defense in the outfield - made a strange decision in right.
On a ball hit by Andrus, Anderson inexplicably stopped with Jacoby Ellsbury nearing him in the gap. Ellsbury was not nearly close enough to get to the ball, and it appeared Anderson had a play. Andrus made it to third, and was knocked in by a Borbon single.
The Rangers got two more in the fourth, an inning in which steals played a major role. Andrus led off with a single, and promptly stole second and third. Borbon’s infield single off Penny (literally) scored Andrus, Borbon stole second, and eventually scored on Marlon Byrd’s sacrifice fly.
The Sox got two solo home runs, a 421-foot bomb by Jason Bay in the fourth, and a 377-foot shot by Victor Martinez in the fifth. But it wasn’t nearly enough, and the Rangers got more insurance in the seventh and eighth, including a run balked home by Ramon Ramirez, and two off Cabrera to which stolen bases contributed.
Francona said it was “not fair’’ to blame the stolen base issue on Varitek, but there was a way to improve the situation.
“Play with a lead and not let them get on,’’ Francona said. “That’s part of their game and it’s very effective. When they have a lead, it makes them even more effective.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.