Bard and Sox can’t hold on
Rally in eighth gives Jays the win
Jonathan Papelbon made the All-Star team for the first time in 2006 and used the occasion to seek out Yankees great Mariano Rivera and ask his advice on how to survive the rigors of being a late-inning reliever in the major leagues.
“The only thing he said was, ‘If you want to be successful in this league, have a short memory,’ ’’ Papelbon said. “There will be games when you blow it and you’re the goat and there will be games where you come in and you’re the hero. You have to forget about both of them.’’
As his stature grew with the Red Sox, Papelbon has tried to impart that philosophy on his teammates. Daniel Bard, he suspects, has gained a better understanding of that in recent weeks.
A hero on most occasions, Bard gave away a game the Sox could ill afford to lose yesterday, surrendering three runs in the eighth inning as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied for a 5-4 victory at Fenway Park.
That’s eight losses in 10 games for the Sox, who lead the Rays by four games in the American League wild-card race after Tampa lost in Baltimore last night.
The Rays arrive at Fenway Park for a pivotal four-game series tonight.
Bard inherited a 4-2 lead in the eighth and lost it five batters later. As the Sox struggle to find healthy and competent starting pitchers, bullpen meltdowns are compounding the problem.
Yesterday was the third time in his last five appearances that Bard lost a lead in the seventh or eighth inning. In another game, he gave up the winning run in the 11th inning. In 4 2/3 innings this month, Bard has allowed nine earned runs on six hits and five walks.
“Sometimes you go out there and your mechanics are a little off and they swing at a couple of pitches and you’re able to get through it,’’ Bard said. “Unfortunately they really haven’t been doing it.’’
Papelbon stands ready to help.
“Daniel’s going to respond in a positive way,’’ said Papelbon. “I don’t care who you are, this happens. Mariano blew Game 7 of a World Series. I’ve blown a playoff game. Does that decide your career? No.
“What defines you and who you are is how you battle and grind and compete over 162 games and, if you’re lucky, the playoffs.
“We’ve been talking and we’ll keep talking. I’m here for him 100 percent and he’s here for me. I have no success without the guy. Zero. We need him.’’
Bard (2-8) walked Edwin Encarnacion and Kelly Johnson on nine pitches, his fastball command nonexistent. When Mark Teahen bunted, Bard threw the ball wildly to first and the bases were loaded.
A run scored when J.P. Arencibia grounded to third base. Kevin Youkilis dropped a potential double-play ball and only had a play at first. Adam Loewen’s single to center then scored two runs.
With 14 games left in the regular season, the Sox need to work quickly to get Bard straightened out.
“He’ll figure it out, with help if he needs it,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “We’ll get there.’’
Catcher Jason Varitek was even more confident in his assessment, cutting off a line of questions about Bard to issue what seemed like a directive.
“I’ll put this to rest with Daniel,’’ Varitek said. “Daniel’s been the hugest part of this bullpen, he and Pap. He’s had a tough little stretch for the last few outings. We need Daniel. Daniel’s going to pitch well. Period.’’
The eighth inning spoiled an otherwise good day for the Sox. John Lackey pitched into the sixth, allowing two runs. He gave up seven hits, walked one, and struck out four despite pitching with a baseball-sized bruise on his left calf, the result of being hit by a ball in his last start.
Franklin Morales took over with a runner on third and one out and escaped. After the ever-reliable Alfredo Aceves went an inning, Bard was next.
Even given his recent issues, what followed was unexpected. It was only the fourth time all season the Sox have lost a game when they started the eighth inning with a lead.
“It’s surprising,’’ said Lackey. “He’s had a great year. Hopefully we can get him back in there with a lead in the eighth inning real soon. We have a lot of confidence in him. He’ll be just fine.’’
A day after the Sox scored 18 runs, Ricky Romero (15-10) and Frank Francisco held them to six hits.
Two errors led to two Sox runs in the second inning. Jacoby Ellsbury ran his hit streak to 18 games with a triple in the third inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by Marco Scutaro.
Adrian Gonzalez added a solo home run in the sixth inning, his first at Fenway since July 7.
Gonzalez then left the game with a tight left calf. He is day to day. The Sox also were without David Ortiz (back spasms) for a second straight day.
As the Rays come to town, the Sox may not have a full lineup, rookie callup Kyle Weiland is starting, and now their lock-down setup man is fighting through the worst stretch of his career.
“We just have to find a way to play good baseball,’’ Gonzalez said.