Sox can’t control Rangers
Wild start by Miller results in early hook
Imagine having the perfect car, the kind you’ve always wanted. It looks cool, has all the options, and when you open it up on the highway, it picks up speed without so much as a shudder.
But every other time you take it out of the garage, it breaks down by the side of the road after a mile and no mechanic can figure out why. It just happens.
That’s Andrew Miller.
The lefthander had allowed one run in his previous two starts, impressing the Red Sox enough to keep him in the rotation. Velocity, command of his pitches, it was all there.
“We got awfully excited,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
Then came the inevitable letdown. Miller was pulled in the second inning last night as the Red Sox were pummeled, 10-0, by the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park.
It was the third loss in four games for the Red Sox and dropped them a half-game behind the Yankees in the American League East.
Miller had not pitched since facing the Rangers Aug. 25. He was close to brilliant that night, throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings and striking out six with two walks. But pitching coach Curt Young was walking to the mound after 11 pitches last night, Miller having missed the strike zone nine times.
“I just never made the correct adjustment,’’ Miller said. “Killed us, lost the game, killed our bullpen. Right now I’m just frustrated and disappointed in tonight’s outing.’’
After walking Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, Miller looked over at first base and flinched. The balk moved both runners into scoring position.
Michael Young hit what appeared to be a routine ground ball to the left side of second base. But Jed Lowrie, starting at shortstop for the first time since Aug. 14, dived at the ball. He stopped it, but had no play and a run scored. Adrian Beltre, back at Fenway for the first time since leaving the Red Sox as a free agent after last season, then hit a fly ball to center that scored Andrus.
The second inning was even worse.
Yorvit Torrealba and David Murphy started with singles and were bunted over by Craig Gentry. Miller then left a fastball over the plate that Kinsler drilled onto Lansdowne Street.
It was the 24th home run of the season for Kinsler, his third in a span of four at-bats dating to Thursday night.
“That pitch was supposed to be in to Kinsler. I’m assuming it wasn’t,’’ Miller said. “Things just snowballed from there.’’
When Andrus walked again, the crowd of 38,083 started to boo. They got louder when Josh Hamilton singled and Young walked to load the bases.
Francona emerged from the dugout to end Miller’s night after 52 pitches, half of them strikes. It was the second-shortest start of his career, Miller having lasted two-thirds of an inning for Detroit against Kansas City in 2007.
“Disappointing,’’ Miller said of the inconsistency that has marked his season. “I felt like I had been throwing the ball well when I’ve gotten opportunities. Certainly didn’t do that tonight. From here you kind of dust yourself off. I’ll be prepared next time I get an opportunity. Pretty poor performance.’’
Tim Wakefield, whom Miller replaced in the rotation, threw four scoreless innings of relief. Wakefield is scheduled to face Toronto Wednesday with Miller going the next night. Those games could determine who remains a starter.
Rookie Michael Bowden inherited a mess from Miller. He got the second out of the inning before Mike Napoli hit a foul ball along the first base stands.
Adrian Gonzalez had a play, but a fan with a Mohawk haircut wearing a gray Red Sox T-shirt tried to use his hat to catch the ball. Gonzalez couldn’t get to the ball and the at-bat continued. Thanks in part to Mohawk Man, Napoli walked to make it 6-0.
That onetime setup man Matt Albers came out of the bullpen with the Sox trailing, 7-0, in the fifth inning was a sign of how far he has fallen. Then he showed why.
Murphy homered deep to right. After Gentry singled, Andrus launched a sinker over the wall.
Albers had a 2.09 earned run average through the first four months of the season. But in 12 appearances since Aug. 1, he has allowed 19 runs on 21 hits over 12 2/3 innings.
A pleasant surprise at one point, Albers may be pitching himself off the postseason roster.
As Miller (6-2) and Albers struggled, Texas starter Derek Holland (13-5) dominated. He allowed two hits over seven innings and struck out six without a walk.
Jacoby Ellsbury singled to start the first inning and Holland picked him off. The lefty then retired 20 of the remaining 21 batters he faced.
Once relievers Merkin Valdez and Mike Gonzalez finished their work, the final 16 Red Sox had been retired in order. The two hits matched the fewest of the season as the Sox were shut out for the 10th time.
“It was kind of a bad night all the way around,’’ Francona said.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@PeteAbe.