After pushing back, momentum is lost
BALTIMORE — For a fleeting moment last night, after Kevin Youkilis tied the game with a three-run homer in the eighth inning, the mojo the Red Sox had going following a four-game sweep of the Angels last weekend was nearly recaptured. It would have been a team-building moment to look so bad for so long and then pull one out with late dramatics. That didn’t happen as the Sox lost, 5-4, and the mojo is gone.
The Sox have fallen twice at Camden Yards to Buck Showalter’s nine — the same Showalter who ripped Boston general manager Theo Epstein in a Men’s Journal article for buying Carl Crawford, and gushed in the same article about how much he loves whipping the Sox’ butts. Showalter must be relishing this. The Sox, save for Youkilis’s heroics, have been horrible getting runners in in this series. That, and some mistakes in the field by a team that had ranked high atop the defensive rankings this disappointing April, cost them dearly last night.
In the bottom of the eighth Daniel Bard made a series of mistakes in a very strange outing. Bard, now 0-3 with a 3.97 ERA, has not been the dominating reliever he was a year ago, and for the time being we will hold off anointing him Jonathan Papelbon’s successor until he turns some of this misfortune into something positive.
After Nick Markakis singled to right and Derrek Lee singled to left, Bard and catcher Jason Varitek got crossed up. Varitek put down the sign for a fastball and Bard thought he saw breaking ball. The result wasn’t pretty, a passed ball that let Markakis race to third and Lee to second.
With Vladimir Guerrero up, Markakis was thrown out trying to score when a pitch got away from Varitek and the catcher threw to Bard, who blocked the plate and got the tag down. Unfortunately, the free-swinging Guerrero then stroked a single to center past a drawn-in infield. It scored Lee with the winning run.
Bard said he had three “mislocations’’ that inning and they all went for hits.
He wasn’t the only culprit.
In the fourth inning, Jacoby Ellsbury broke back on Lee’s pop to shallow center and couldn’t recover as the ball dropped between Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia for a double. That set the stage for Luke Scott’s two-run bomb and a solo shot by Adam Jones against Josh Beckett, who probably deserved a better fate.
“I don’t know what happened,’’ said Pedroia, “but it’s got to be caught.’’
Ellsbury’s mistake was costly and it’s too bad, because he did have three hits from the leadoff spot.
Another key play came with the Sox up in the fourth, when David Ortiz was thrown out at the plate on a strong peg by Markakis in right field. There were two outs and Ortiz was on second when Jed Lowrie singled, and if third base coach Tim Bogar had held Ortiz up, it would have brought Carl Crawford up with the bases loaded. The chances of the struggling Crawford doing anything productive in that situation weren’t good.
“[Markakis] has a cannon, but you have to try to see if he made a bad throw,’’ Ortiz said. “I gotta go. Two outs. How many times do you see a two-out base hit with men in scoring position? If he makes a bad throw I have a chance.’’
“I would have sent him too,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
But one could argue this game was lost in the first inning.
The Sox had runners at second and third with one out after an Ellsbury single and an Adrian Gonzalez double and they ended up getting nothing when Youkilis struck out and Ortiz popped out. Youkilis, who tagged Koji Uehara for the homer in the eighth, lamented the missed opportunity in the first.
About the homer, Youkilis said, “I was looking for a fastball to drive 2-0 and missed one. Then I was fortunate to get one up in the zone that I could hit out to left-center.
“I thought I hit it, but then I saw it right there [near the wall]. With the way my luck is going, I’m just glad it went out. In the end, it didn’t matter because we lost the game.
“In my first at-bat I didn’t drive in the runners, and that was a big part of the game. [The homer] doesn’t make up for it. Just come out tomorrow and play the game and good things will happen.’’
Youkilis believes the best is yet to come with Sox hitters.
“We got hitters who are .300 and .290 hitters who aren’t hitting now,’’ he said. “That means they’re going to. A lot of balls that are going to fall haven’t fallen in. We’re pitching well, playing defense. We have to play all aspects of the game and we’ll be all right. These two are tough games, but we need to come out tomorrow and get a good win and head on home.’’
Pedroia was upset afterward.
“We want to win,’’ he said. “We hit the ball pretty good, but other than Youk’s homer, nothing to show for it.’’
This was a tough one to lose. Beckett didn’t have his best stuff, but he did throw a 95-mile-per-hour fastball at one point, which may have been his fastest pitch of the season. He did make a couple of mistakes and barked at Scott when he flipped his bat before running around the bases. Did the staredown distract Beckett on Jones’s homer?
“I don’t think so,’’ Varitek said. “I think he was fine. He just left a fastball out over the plate.’’
There was very little chatter in the clubhouse after the game. No music. To have one of your best relievers squander the game with a few mistakes was deflating after the fight back.
This is an Orioles team the Sox need to take care of, but over the last two nights they have run into pretty tough pitching from starters Zach Britton and Jeremy Guthrie.
A third loss with Jon Lester pitching tonight would send the Sox reeling back to Boston with a reminder of those ugly days to start the season. And right now that’s something they must avoid.