Sox surrender one in the late innings
This baseball went out. After two Red Sox shots appeared ticketed for the stands in the bottom of the ninth inning — two walkoff attempts that fell short — it was Yankee Curtis Granderson who cleared the fence, sending a pitch from Jonathan Papelbon into the crowd in right field in the 10th — to give the Yankees their first lead last night.
Papelbon had been here before. The closer ended the season this way, giving up a lead to a rival. He hardly wanted it to happen again so soon, after spending the offseason watching video of his meltdown against the Angels that ended the American League Division Series.
This spot was not nearly so big, but was disappointing all the same, as the closer faltered in his second inning of work as the Red Sox fell, 3-1, to the Yan kees in 10 innings.
“I felt really good, but it was the classic situation where you make one mistake and you pay for it,’’ said Papelbon, who watched Granderson (3 for 10 lifetime against the closer) become the first opponent to hit more than one homer off him. “It obviously was a poorly executed pitch by me, left up out over the plate. With this lineup, you’re going to pay for it. That’s the way it is.’’
So, after Chan Ho Park had given up those two long outs to Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron in his third impressive inning of relief, it was the Red Sox suddenly in a hole from which they couldn’t emerge, ceding the season-opening series to New York. It was not the way this one seemed destined to end. But, after all, these are the Red Sox and the Yankees. Thrilling is expected.
As manager Terry Francona said, “I actually thought Adrian’s ball had a chance, and I was hoping that Cam’s did.’’
“I hit it pretty good,’’ Cameron said. “Just one of those days. What is it, 312 down the left-field line? I hit it like 311, 310. [The pitch] was up, too. Good ball to try to drive out there.’’
It had been so close to perfection, a gorgeous mid-summer style night, an excellent start by a new ace, a key hit by a struggling slugger. And then came Jorge Posada’s double to center field, a hit that was sandwiched by two strikeouts by Scott Schoeneweis. With two outs in the inning, Daniel Bard entered. The lead soon left.
Nick Swisher hit an 0-and-2 changeup to right field, bringing in Posada to tie the game and steal the win from John Lackey.
“I think it was the right pitch, just missed up with it a little bit. Not a good 0-2 location,’’ Bard said. “I think if it’s six or seven inches lower, it’s probably a strikeout or a weak ground ball. I’m not questioning the pitch. I should have executed it a little bit better.’’
There was questioning, though, on the Posada double. That came from Cameron, who acknowledged he probably needs more time to figure out some intricacies of Fenway Park.
“Just got to remember instead of conceding the ball coming off the wall, stay aggressive and understand that I’ve got two guys that’s going to be coming behind me,’’ Cameron said. “That’s one ball I probably should have been going after a little bit more.’’
Late ties and late lead changes are the norm when these teams play. It had seemed for awhile Lackey’s start would translate to a win in his first crack at this rivalry. But it’s never that easy, is it?
Nor was it easy for Lackey, who said after the game he had “a lot of things on my mind today,’’ though he declined to expand on that thought.
“Lot of first-pitch strikes,’’ Francona said. “Changed speeds, stayed down in the zone. He really pitched well. Would have liked to have let him pitch all night. Think that would have been a little irresponsible this early in the season to send him back out. I thought he did terrific.’’
After two nights of disappointment on the mound, of needing comebacks (successful and unsuccessful) from their offense, the Sox finally got what they expected. They got a command performance, a takedown of an excellent offense and a chance to win without heroics.
Lackey faced difficulty only in the sixth inning, when he began the frame by hitting Derek Jeter, a pitch that prompted umpire Paul Schrieber to warn both benches. Kevin Youkilis had been beaned by Andy Pettitte an inning earlier. One out later, Lackey walked Mark Teixeira, bringing up Alex Rodriguez. It took just two pitches to get out of the jam, as Rodriguez grounded to Beltre, who started a double play to end the inning, keeping the 1-0 lead intact.
That lead came courtesy of the player who had come into last night’s game with an 0-for-7 season. In the third inning, Dustin Pedroia led off with a double, and after two outs, David Ortiz stepped to the plate. The designated hitter was hitting .367 over his career against Pettitte, and he lined a single to right, delivering Pedroia. This came after Ortiz’s frustrated (and profanity laden) commentary to reporters the night before.
Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough. Even with Papelbon happy with the way he felt, happy with the way he was mixing his pitches (he estimated 8 or 10 of his 28 pitches were splitters), the closer couldn’t come through.
“It seems like I’ve made a few mistakes to Granderson, man,’’ Papelbon said. “He’s the type of hitter, you make mistakes to, he’s going to make you pay.’’