Thrown for a loss
Ball one. Ball two. Ball three. Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima had thrown three pitches off the plate to Nick Johnson in the eighth inning, with Yankees on each of the bases, the game tied at 4-4. Strike one.
Any hope was short-lived, as ball four shortly followed. Jorge Posada trotted home with the fifth run of the game for the Yankees.
“Walk was the last thing I wanted to do,’’ Okajima said, through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa, after the Sox had fallen, 6-4, to New York last night at Fenway Park. “I tried to keep my mind focused on it. But the result just turned out to be that one.’’
Posada doubled to open the inning, then watched as Nick Swisher battled through an 11-pitch at-bat only to ground out. Brett Gardner singled to left, but Posada didn’t advance. Then, after Curtis Granderson flied out, the Sox had a chance to get out of the inning.
That was when Derek Jeter hit a ball in the hole, where shortstop Marco Scutaro grabbed it. He bounced the throw to Kevin Youkilis for an error, loading the bases before Okajima walked in the winning run. Robinson Cano added a homer in the ninth for New York.
“I just made a bad throw, that’s it,’’ Scutaro said. “I don’t really have an excuse. If I would have made a good throw, out. I don’t have any excuse at all. I just made a bad throw. I threw a nice two-seamer.’’
Scutaro said he didn’t rush the throw because of Jeter scampering down the line, as manager Terry Francona had indicated he might have. He just erred, and so the game went to the Yankees.
“It just hopped up quick,’’ Youkilis said. “Just hit the top of my glove, and just didn’t get in the webbing. It was one of those plays that I blame myself, thought I could have made it, but it just hopped up enough where it got a bad bounce. One of those tough breaks you have. One play doesn’t screw up the game. That’s not how we lost the ballgame.’’
Pitching and defense are fantastic in theory. But for the second straight game the Sox’ starting pitcher was far from dominant, and runs were not being prevented against the Yankees.
Sunday night, it was Josh Beckett giving up five runs. Last night, it was Jon Lester giving up four. Neither got the decision, although the Yankees’ A.J. Burnett didn’t either last night.
“Lot of deep counts,’’ Francona said of Lester. “I think in the second inning he was 3 and 2 on just about everybody. We talk about it all the time, and it’s certainly a lot easier said than done, but pounding the zone with good stuff [is a must] because they don’t chase balls that a lot of other teams will. They work counts very well. He had a lot of deep counts tonight.’’
Lester lasted just five innings, throwing 94 pitches. He gave up the four runs on five hits and three walks, striking out four, and hitting Swisher and Johnson with pitches. But perhaps it could have been predicted, as Lester has started slowly each of the last two seasons, with a 4.78 ERA in April.
Asked about Lester being more of a second-half pitcher, Francona said before the game, “I hope not. I’d like him to be both half.’’
There was one moment that surely didn’t help. On a tight play in the fifth inning, on a potential double play grounder by Mark Teixeira with the bases loaded and no outs, the Yankees first baseman was called safe by first base umpire Paul Schrieber. It was close, but the throw might have beaten Teixeira’s foot to the bag. Had it been called the other way, that could have helped keep the Yankees from their second and third runs of the inning.
“I’d like to think they’re always out,’’ Francona said. “Big play.’’
There were other reasons, though, that the Sox didn’t win. Scutaro made the error. Okajima gave up the walk. Lester didn’t make the pitches. But, also, the offense didn’t produce enough — outside of Victor Martinez, who hit a two-run homer and added an RBI double. More concerns were raised about David Ortiz, who now is 0 for 7 with three men stranded.
The image that remained, however, was of yet another error from yet another shortstop.
“It’s always hard when you make errors that cost you the game,’’ Scutaro said. “But you just turn the page and come back tomorrow and win the series. Can do nothing about it now.’’