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Rangers 8, Red Sox 4

Backpedaling

Molina’s cycle helps sink Sox

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 17, 2010

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As the ball bounded away from Eric Patterson, having ticked off the center fielder’s glove toward the triangle, the seemingly impossible happened. Bengie Molina — yes, the slow-footed catcher — rounded second base, slogged his way toward third, and pulled in with a stand-up triple. The three-bagger gave the plodding Molina a cycle, the first achieved by an opponent at Fenway Park in 32 years.

“Nothing is predictable in the game. Things just happen,’’ said David Ortiz, unable to prevent a guffaw. “I would put my head in a tree-trimmer betting that he won’t hit a triple. Seems to me like he stopped at second to think about it.’’

With the Rangers already having scored seven runs for the second straight night, it was an insulting cap to a difficult night all around for the Sox and for the crowd of 37,669. They had to endure subpar pitching from Boston and an hour rain delay between the third and fourth innings. Not exactly a good night to be at the ballpark, at least not for those rooting for the home team.

Nor was it a good night for those on the mound for the home team, particularly starter Felix Doubront and reliever Fernando Cabrera, as the Sox succumbed, 8-4. It was their second consecutive loss coming out of the All-Star break, and their seventh loss in their last nine games.

Doubront stood behind the mound, bent over and feeling, as he said, “a little bit frustrated.’’ He had just made a sparkling defensive play, nabbing a line drive back to the mound to get Josh Hamilton, and then he had thrown the ball away. The attempt was to double up the runner on second base, to get the extra out that Doubront needed to finish off the fifth inning. The ball shot past the bag for his second throwing error of the game, to go with two wild pitches.

That left Doubront standing in the infield with men on second and third as manager Terry Francona began his walk to the mound, accompanied by a trainer. He was out of the game, leaving two runners to Cabrera, whose relief was anything but.

“The first throw, that’s when he probably rushed,’’ Francona said, referring to Doubront’s first-inning error. “There’s a reason to rush ’cause of the runner. Second one, great stab. He just didn’t move his feet. Big play. We talk all the time about giving them extra opportunities. That probably played itself out to the worst it could. Got a chance to walk off the field, which would have been a great play, come off the field, instead we’ve got to keep letting them hit. It unraveled.’’

Cabrera, who had been at Fenway Park just long enough to settle into a locker recently vacated by reliever Robert Manuel, proved to be far more damaging to the Red Sox’ chances than Doubront’s miscues. With two outs in the inning and a one-run lead in the game, Cabrera walked Nelson Cruz to load the bases. He walked David Murphy to score a run. And then, on a 1-2 pitch to Molina, the catcher unloaded.

The ball ended up dropping into the stands in center field, Molina’s fifth career grand slam. It came against yet another ineffective reliever, another pitcher who has contributed to a bullpen far too leaky for a team with any aspirations of contending. At that point, after the four runs came in on the Molina shot, the Sox were down by four.

“The last two nights, every mistake we make, he hits,’’ said Francona. “He’s knocking the ball all over the ballpark. Kind of hiding out down there, a little lower, and whacking the ball all over the place. He killed us.’’

It was another difficult night, not just because of the trouble on the mound. The Sox and Rangers waited out an hour rain delay after the third inning, with both starters resuming their throwing after the delay. Not that the rain was done, with the precipitation coming down periodically throughout the messy game.

“We were getting to a point where we were going to shut him down because we were expecting more rain,’’ Francona said of Doubront. “The report was more, more, more. He had been going down about every 10 minutes to play catch in the cage. All of a sudden, they said 9:20 [p.m. to restart]. So we felt like he was OK.’’

Doubront said that he felt a little different after the delay, more tired. He lost his energy, and that might have contributed to the difficulties.

But Doubront was pleased with the way his cutter was working, as was catcher Kevin Cash. It was a pitch that’s still emerging, a pitch that was impressive against a good lineup.

“It felt pretty good,’’ he said. “I’m still working, but that’s another weapon to use.’’

The Sox added on to their total, getting another run in the sixth inning on a J.D. Drew sacrifice fly. They had already scored two in the second inning, as Drew singled home Kevin Youkilis and Drew scored on a wild pitch. Then, after the delay, Adrian Beltre demonstrated the improved health of his hamstring with a tiebreaking home run over the Green Monster in the fourth.

Texas had scored early, with Elvis Andrus reaching to lead off the first inning on Doubront’s first throwing error, when he lashed the ball past first base. Andrus made it home on an Ian Kinsler single, then Kinsler came home on Cruz’s single that ended the inning when Vladimir Guerrero was thrown out trying to go to third base.

And while the game didn’t exactly go as planned for the Sox, there was still some satisfaction with the way Doubront pitched, still enthusiasm for the promise of the prospect, even after a difficult loss.

“He’s got a great feel, a great aptitude for pitching,’’ Francona said. “They’ve got a good fastball hitting team, and he was pretty much just fastball early. Then he got the cutter going. He’s going to be good. He’s got a bright future.’’

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