Red Sox can’t hold on
After a late comeback, Bard fails to close out lowly Indians
CLEVELAND — With no Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen, the call went out to the closer-in-training. Daniel Bard walked to the mound in the bottom of the ninth after Adrian Beltre’s two-run homer in the top of the inning had put the Red Sox on top, 7-6. It was a chance for Bard to work his magic.
He couldn’t. It started with a walk to Trevor Crowe and got worse with a double to left by Shin-Soo Choo and a walk to Austin Kearns. Up came Travis Hafner with the bases loaded. But Hafner — author of a grand slam the night before — struck out looking and Jhonny Peralta followed with a pop out to the catcher.
That left Russell Branyan. But five days after Bard had gotten himself out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam of Jon Lester’s creation, Bard couldn’t wiggle out of one of his own making as Branyan sent a soft liner beyond the glove of Dustin Pedroia in short right to give the Indians an 8-7 win.
“There was not really a point in that inning where I thought I wasn’t going to get out of it,’’ Bard said. “I think you’ve got to have that mentality going in to have a chance to get out of it — bases loaded, no-out jam, regardless of how you got there. I just kept thinking, it wasn’t, ‘Am I going to do this?’ It was, ‘How am I going to do it?’ Just try and find a way.’’
There was no way on this night. Instead, Bard was left searching for answers after a good pitch to Branyan got dropped into “no man’s land,’’ as Bard put it. The pitch was on target on the inside corner, yet the first baseman delivered in a hit, just as the Indians had done throughout the early innings to Lester.
“We were set up in, we were trying to go in,’’ Bard said. “He pulled his hands in, got enough of the barrel on it.’’
As Pedroia said, “I was close, maybe like a foot away. The ball was pretty well placed. It’s a tough way to lose, but we did some good things.’’
In the end, though, it was not a comfortable outing for Bard. With the Sox trailing in the top of the ninth, he was not warming. Given how often he has pitched, the Sox didn’t want him up without a reason. Then, with two outs and two strikes on J.D. Drew, Kerry Wood nicked him in the foot with a curveball. Drew trotted to first base, bringing up Beltre.
“That thing chased me,’’ Drew said. “But if you’re going to get it, that’s a good time for it. It gave Adrian a chance.’’
And Beltre took that chance, driving a Wood fastball 394 feet over the wall in left-center. He was looking fastball, and that was what he got.
Out in the bullpen, Bard raced to get ready. He had been told to take what time he needed, the Sox would stall. They would have sent Ramon Ramirez back out to the mound before making the switch. Bard, though, said he felt good to go.
“I got ready a little quick and I think I just carried that into those first couple hitters and was rushing myself a little bit,’’ Bard said. “Got myself into it, and almost got out, but didn’t.
“I was loose. It was just kind of the mind was racing a little bit, which happens from time to time. It took me a couple batters to slow it down, I think.’’
But the Branyan hit wasn’t the only bloop that killed the Sox. Over Lester’s six innings — in which he allowed six runs, his most since April 18 — the Indians didn’t crush the ball. Instead there were lucky hits here and there, well-placed balls that led to too many runs.
“It wasn’t a lot of hard contact,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Sometimes there’s nights like that. Never want to make excuses — that’s a bad way to go about it — but I thought Lester made a lot of good pitches. Walks one, strikes out eight. There wasn’t a lot of balls hit hard, but they found grass.’’
Lester tossed his glove in the dugout after walking off the mound at the end of the sixth, an inning in which the lefthander allowed three runs and gave up the lead. It was light-hitting catcher Lou Marson (.191), who dealt the big blow, a two-run single to right, completing a comeback in which Cleveland recorded six runs after the Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead.
“I didn’t get the job done,’’ Lester said. “It’s kind of a funny game. That was probably the best I’ve felt all year. Just overthrew some balls. Didn’t locate within the zone. They didn’t square a lot of balls up. I’ve got to do a better job.’’
Before Lester had thrown a single pitch, the Red Sox had scored four runs. That, though, was more a cause of what the Indians were giving. Andy Marte, briefly the Red Sox’ third baseman of the future, helped out with three errors in the first inning, including two on one play.
The Sox started with a Marco Scutaro double and Pedroia RBI single (snapping an 0-for-15 skid). After David Ortiz walked, Kevin Youkilis loaded the bases when Marte mishandled a slow roller. After a Victor Martinez sacrifice fly, Drew walked to fill the bases again. One out later, Mike Cameron grounded a ball to Marte, but the third baseman bobbled it, allowing Ortiz to score, then made a bad throw to first, which permitted Youkilis to trot home.
The lead wouldn’t last. They would lose it, and get it back, and lose it again. Ultimately, the Sox left Progressive Field to the strains of “Cleveland Rocks,’’ having split their four-game series with one of the worst teams in the American League, losing the last two with their two best starters on the mound.
“That’s about as roller coaster as you can get,’’ Francona said. “We get bases loaded. They get bases loaded. Bard’s one pitch from getting away from that. So it’s a frustrating day.’’