With Lowrie off base, Sox tagged with a loss
SEATTLE - Red Sox manager Terry Francona was ejected in the fourth inning of Saturday night’s loss against the Mariners after the umpires reversed a call at the plate and decided Jacoby Ellsbury was out.
Francona later said the umpires got the call right. But there was no forgiveness yesterday.
A controversial call in the third inning helped Seattle score two runs and the Mariners held on for a 5-3 victory, denying Tim Wakefield his 200th career win.
It left the Red Sox muttering to themselves as they left Safeco Field, headed for a long flight home.
“A weird couple of days,’’ said shortstop Jed Lowrie, who was at the center of the disputed play. “Very weird.’’
The Sox have hit a little funk, dropping three of their last four games. They are off today, then have three games against the Rays in a span of approximately 28 hours. There’s a doubleheader tomorrow and a day game Wednesday.
“We have kind of a weird schedule coming up. We have to play better,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said.
Wakefield won his 199th game July 24. Yesterday was the fourth time he has pitched well enough to win, only to walk away empty-handed. The 45-year-old allowed five runs (four earned) over eight innings. He is 0-2 with a 4.08 ERA in his last four starts.
At this point, Wakefield is less concerned about his personal milestone than he is helping the Red Sox regain lost momentum.
“I’m just trying to pitch quality starts and quality innings to try to get us wins because it’s getting that time of year,’’ he said. “It’s time to win games.’’
Sloppy defense did not help that cause yesterday. Wakefield retired the first six batters before Casper Wells walked to start the third inning.
“I thought I had him struck out,’’ said Wakefield, who threw a knuckleball just off the inside corner at 3-and-2.
Wells stole second and went to third when the rushed throw from Jarrod Saltalamacchia went into center field. Jack Wilson’s infield single made it 1-0.
Kyle Seager followed with a single to right field.
When Ichiro Suzuki grounded to first, Adrian Gonzalez fired to second base. The return throw from Lowrie was too late to get Ichiro, but at least the Red Sox had an out.
Except they didn’t. Umpire Ed Hickox said Lowrie never touched the base and that Seager was safe.
Replays showed Lowrie catching the ball behind the bag before moving away from the runner and throwing to first.
“I really thought he grazed the bag. [But] it doesn’t matter what I think,’’ said Francona, who emerged from the dugout to argue the call.
“I think you have to be pretty sure on that one if you’re going to make a call like that. After you look at the replay, I don’t know how he can be sure.’’
Umpires commonly call runners out if the fielder is in the vicinity of the base. At worst, Lowrie was close.
“Just knowing that I touched the base . . . It’s a bad situation,’’ said Lowrie, who was charged with an error. “It probably cost [us] a couple of runs. Nothing we can do about it now.’’
Hickox told Lowrie it was obvious he was off the base. The umpire offered Francona the same explanation, holding his hands about a foot apart to demonstrate what he saw.
“I don’t even know what to say. It’s the same thing. I do it every single time,’’ Lowrie said. “I kick the back corner of the base and I step back out of the way of the runner.
“It definitely changes the momentum of the inning.’’
Franklin Gutierrez followed with a sacrifice fly. Wakefield then walked Dustin Ackley before Mike Carp’s single drove in Seager.
That the Red Sox lost by two runs only magnified the importance of the call in Lowrie’s eyes.
“It might be easy to look back and say, ‘What if?’ You just expect the game to be called the right way,’’ he said.
Ackley had an RBI single in the fifth inning and Wells a solo home run in the sixth.
Seattle starter Charlie Furbush, a 25-year-old rookie from South Portland, Maine, allowed one run on four hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out six.
Furbush, who was acquired from the Tigers July 30, has faced the Sox twice this season and allowed one run over 12 innings.
“You know what? He’s pretty good,’’ Francona said. “He’s got enough on his fastball, got some finish to it. He’s got a curveball for the lefties and a changeup for the righties. Pretty impressive.’’
Kevin Youkilis belted a two-run homer off Jeff Gray in the eighth inning, but Brandon League took care of the ninth inning for his second save of the series.
“It’s tough,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “We’re all out there busting our [butts] trying to do the best we can. We know that [the umpires] are not intentionally doing it.
“It’s one of those things where it’s part of the game. I think that if they reviewed it today, they’d feel differently.’’