|Marco Scutaro grounds into a double play in the third, driving in a run but hurting a Sox rally. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)|
Wakefield, Sox let one get away
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It had a chance to be one of the more satisfying games of the season for the Red Sox.
Tim Wakefield took a three-run lead into the bottom of the sixth inning against the Royals last night, putting him on the doorstep of his elusive 200th career win. With the Yankees losing in Minnesota, the Red Sox also were poised to move back into first place in the American League East.
All that on a night when the battered Sox were using a lineup that seemed constructed for a spring training game, Jacoby Ellsbury having joined David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis on the bench after being drilled in the back by a pitch the night before.
But the frustration continued for Wakefield. The Royals scored eight runs in the sixth, roaring back to beat the Sox, 9-4, before a crowd of 28,588 at Kauffman Stadium.
The Red Sox clubhouse was graveyard quiet after the game. Instead of some celebratory champagne and a round of applause for the oldest active player in the majors, it was more Pepto-Bismol for a team that has lost five of its last eight games.
“Tonight was just one bad inning,’’ Wakefield said. “It’s a long season and things like that happen.’’
Wakefield is winless in five starts since winning his 199th game July 24. Unlike the previous four starts, he did not pitch particularly well this time, allowing four runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Still, the Sox took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth. The bottom three hitters in their makeshift order - Carl Crawford, Ryan Lavarnway, and Darnell McDonald - had combined for four hits and three RBIs. Wakefield to that point had allowed one run on six hits.
“We were looking pretty good,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
Then Eric Hosmer singled with one out and scored on a double by Jeff Francoeur. When Mike Moustakas followed with an RBI double, Francona went to Matt Albers.
Wakefield was at 97 pitches. He was asked later if he wanted to stay in the game.
“It is what it is, you know?’’ Wakefield said. “We’re trying to win the game, not trying to do a favor for me. We’re trying to win the game as a team.’’
One of the team’s more reliable relievers for the first four months, Albers has been shaky in August. That continued as he quickly let the game get out of hand.
Albers allowed the runner he inherited to score then gave up five of his own. Chris Getz and Melky Cabrera had RBI singles and Alex Gordon a two-run double.
Francona had Albers intentionally walk Billy Butler and called in lefty Franklin Morales to face the lefthanded-hitting Hosmer. That didn’t work, either, as Hosmer slammed a two-run triple to center.
The eight-run inning matched the largest of the season for the Royals. They had seven hits in the inning and sent 12 men to the plate.
“A lot of balls caught the middle of the plate. There were a ton of two-out runs and it killed us,’’ Francona said. “We had to stop the bleeding and we didn’t.’’
Albers has allowed 11 earned runs on 11 hits and four walks over his last eight innings. During that span his earned run average has swelled from 2.09 to 3.71.
“He had a little stretch like that earlier in the year. But he’s done some really good things for us,’’ Francona said. “We’re certainly not going to run away from him.’’
Said Albers: “I feel good physically and mentally. It comes down to execution. It’s a fine line. You definitely can improve but you don’t want to be making complete changes, either.’’
Dan Wheeler, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, has gone 11 2/3 innings without giving up a run. The righthander, who has pitched well since coming off the disabled list in May, could work his way into the late-inning mix if Albers continues to revert into the pitcher Baltimore nontendered last winter.
“I’ve got to go out there and throw strike one and get ahead of the batters,’’ Albers said.
That his poor outing cost Wakefield a milestone was not something Albers was focused on.
“You try not to think of that,’’ he said. “Every game is important in the scheme of things . . . Obviously it’s frustrating for me, I know that.’’
Kansas City starter Felipe Paulino (2-5) went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Every Kansas City starter scored a run. Gordon was 3 for 5.
The Sox can salvage the series this afternoon with Jon Lester on the mound. For Wakefield, his next start is scheduled for Thursday against Texas.
“We want to win,’’ Dustin Pedroia said. “It’ll come for him. It’s only a matter of time.’’