Rays leave Sox in deep trouble
Visitors hammer 5 homers in rout
There were cheers, and then there were boos. The cheers came as manager Terry Francona bounded from the dugout to remove starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. The boos were for Matsuzaka, who frustrated the fans and failed to help the Red Sox gain ground against their closest competition.
His performance was a debacle.
And the 14-5 loss led to the first official sign that the Sox have started thinking about 2011. Instead of having Clay Buchholz pitch tonight on short rest, Tim Wakefield will get the start. The watch has started on Boston’s elimination number — the Sox are 7 1/2 games back in the wild-card race — as talk turns to the prospects. The deficit appears too large to overcome, as Matsuzaka was unable to give his team one last grasp at a chance.
“I knew very well that this was a critical game, as far as our chances of advancing to the playoffs,’’ Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino. “So to allow what happened to happen so early in the game, I can really only apologize to my teammates and to the fans.’’
It was the walks, missed chances, and the long balls that allowed the Rays to clobber the Sox in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Matsuzaka was not the only culprit. The two relievers that followed were equally abysmal. They only added to a parade of Rays running around the bases. The lowlight was a mammoth home run by Evan Longoria in the fifth.
But while it might have gone the farthest (it was last seen headed toward some cars parked in a Lansdowne Street lot), Longoria’s homer wasn’t the only one. After Matsuzaka had allowed two home runs, the relievers one-upped him, yielding three more before the end of the sixth inning. The five round-trippers were a season high for Tampa.
By that point, though, the adding-on hardly mattered. Matsuzaka allowed the game to get out of hand, allowing eight runs on eight hits and four walks in just 4 2/3 innings. There was no coming back from that.
“On a day like today, I didn’t have any life or bite or command on my pitches,’’ Matsuzaka said. “I’m sure that Victor [Martinez] felt that there wasn’t anything that he could try and do either.’’
Although he got through the first two innings unscathed before giving up a two-run homer to Ben Zobrist in the third, it was in the fourth that things started to fall apart.
“Lack of command caught up with him and kind of caught up in a hurry,’’ Francona said. “[Fourth] inning, we got walk, walk, bunt, and we’ve got bases loaded, nobody out. There was a lot of hits and some walks mixed in. That’s not a good combination.’’
After those two walks to start the fourth, B.J. Upton attempted to sacrifice the runners over. But the Sox didn’t take the out, as Martinez coaxed Matsuzaka to throw to third base to get the lead runner. He couldn’t, as Matt Joyce slid in safe.
“Took a chance,’’ Martinez said. “You can’t play this game afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are out there. You can’t play this game being afraid to fail. I called it. I called it to third and we didn’t get the out.’’
The bases were loaded for Jason Bartlett, who walked in a run, the sixth time Boston pitching has done that in the last three games. Matsuzaka allowed an RBI single to Zobrist and a two-run double to Carl Crawford before getting out of the fourth. There was more ugliness in the fifth. Matsuzaka got two quick outs before allowing an infield single to Upton and that home run to Bartlett. He was then showered with boos as he was lifted in favor of Dustin Richardson.
The lefthander walked two batters and committed a throwing error, the major league-high 20th of the season by Sox pitching. That scored a run, ended his outing, and brought in Robert Manuel to face Longoria, who launched his bomb. Dan Johnson and Upton added back-to-back home runs in the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Sox could do little against David Price, who allowed just two hits and two runs over his six innings, with Martinez getting both of the hits. They scored three runs in the eighth, but by then it was too late.
The loss left the Sox thinking about the bigger picture, about the future, not about the postseason, which they’re almost certain to miss.
“It doesn’t look good at all,’’ Martinez said. “But we still have to go out there and keep playing. Keep playing and see what happens. The only thing we can control is keeping coming to the ballpark and keep playing hard. That’s it.’’