Red Sox get caught in Royal downpour
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The mist still suffused Kauffman Stadium by the final innings, the dreary weather and the dreary attendance matching the dreary moods of the players on the visiting side. Coming off an easy sweep of the Orioles, a streak in which the Red Sox had won 10 of 11, and a six-run lead by the third inning, the events of the sixth couldn’t have been predicted.
Sure, Manny Delcarmen’s ERA has been steadily climbing. But these are the Royals, for goodness sakes.
One six-run sixth inning later, the Royals had turned poor command from the Sox pitching staff into a stunning 12-9 victory in front of a meager (and soaked) 16,770. By donating 11 walks, their most in a game since Aug. 19, 2006, the Sox turned a win into a loss just when they were playing their best baseball of the season.
“It’s brutal,’’ Tim Wakefield said, his sentences short and clipped. “We gave the game away. Bottom line.’’
When the Sox rushed out to their six-run lead - against a team fighting to stay out of last place in the American League Central - victory appeared to be only a matter of time. The Sox would outlast the weather, despite the precipitation steadily falling, and they would win the game. They would shave another game off their magic number as they began a four-game series against the patsies in Kansas City.
With the grounds crew seemingly poised and ready from the fourth inning, the Royals climbed back. They scored five runs against Wakefield, who made his third start since the All-Star break, an improbable run from a man who can barely walk. But it was Delcarmen, demonstrating just how far he has sunk, who gave the Royals life.
“Manny comes in in a clean inning, a chance to kind of bounce back,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Throws a 2-2 changeup for a double, gets a strikeout and an out, then can’t convert the third out. We go to [Daniel] Bard probably earlier than we wanted to, and he can’t get out of as quickly as we wanted to. So it kind of got the ball rolling there. Obviously it was a real tough inning.’’
With the Sox leading, 8-4, Delcarmen relieved Wakefield. After a leadoff double, Delcarmen got the next two outs. All appeared well. But then he gave up a double, a walk, and another double, getting the Royals to within 8-7. Then came Bard, who walked Miguel Olivo and gave up a double to Alex Gordon. The scored was tied, 9-9.
Yuniesky Betancourt completed the comeback with a two-run single to right although he was caught off first base and tagged out to end the inning. The Royals were up, 11-9.
“It’s tough, when they get on a roll, hitting’s kind of contagious,’’ Bard said. “That’s kind of what happened there. Put some good at-bats together. For me, I had two chances to put guys away, and didn’t execute a pitch.’’
Delcarmen, who was not available after the game, allowed four runs and his ERA ballooned to 4.34, and worse, it’s 8.84 since July 28, a span of 20 games.
“He’s got to get his rear end under him,’’ Francona said of Delcarmen before the game. “Just when he gets that balance point, he’s got to go this way instead of running away from his arm. It’s a lot easier said than done. It’s been that way for a while. It’s something that he’s aware of, John [Farrell’s] been aware of. We’ve talked to him.’’
Although Delcarmen gave up the lead and the game, Wakefield shouldered the blame after the game. He didn’t always find the strike zone - witness the six walks in the first five innings - but he kept the Sox afloat. He did, however, allow a three-run homer to Mike Jacobs in the fifth that helped keep the Royals alive, if faintly.
“He’s battling a lot of things just to be out there,’’ Bard said. “He gave us a solid five innings, left with a comfortable lead. We want to get him the win. We want to get the team the win. Just weren’t able to do it.’’
The Sox had taken control of Royals starter Lenny DiNardo in the third, with Dustin Pedroia starting things off with a single. After Victor Martinez walked, Jason Bay blasted a ball 416 feet, setting a career high for home runs with 36. The Sox were up three, and it would only get worse for the Royals. David Ortiz walked, then after Mike Lowell flied to center, Rocco Baldelli reached on an infield single and Alex Gonzalez added another single to load the bases.
Two came home on a single up the middle by Jacoby Ellsbury, then Gonzalez scored on Pedroia’s second single of the inning. The Sox were up by six runs. Wakefield had a cushion and, though he would allow a run in the fourth on three consecutive singles, Boston appeared to have the game well in hand - especially when they added two more in the fifth.
It wasn’t enough, though. Not on this night, with the rain pouring and the bullpen imploding.
“It happens,’’ Ortiz said. “That’s why the game is not over until the last out, right? Gotta keep on playing, and make sure you win before you celebrate.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.