Pitching falters again, but no ground is lost
What has been taxed more than Middle America?
The Red Sox bullpen.
And last night, the Sox paid the price for a continued horrible stretch of starting pitching in a 7-5 loss to the Orioles at Fenway Park.
Robert Andino shot a 3-and-2 Jonathan Papelbon pitch to right field for a three-run double in the eighth inning, helping Baltimore overcome a 5-4 deficit.
It was only the second blown save by Papelbon this season, on a night when he was asked to get five outs.
Erik Bedard pitched only 2 2/3 innings in his first start in more than two weeks and became the 14th Sox starter in the last 20 games to last five or fewer innings.
Scott Atchison, Matt Albers, and Daniel Bard pitched well enough in relief to hand that 5-4 lead to Papelbon, but he couldn’t get the job done.
The loss cost the Sox a chance to increase their lead over Tampa Bay, which lost, 5-0, to the Yankees in New York. The Sox’ lead in the wild-card race remains two games - one in the loss column.
Papelbon took the blame for the loss.
“Whenever I’m called on, I have to do my job,’’ he said. “Tonight boiled down to execution. I have to be able to put guys away 0-and-2 (against Nolan Reimold, who singled before the Andino hit to load the bases). This game is on me.
“The team needed me and I didn’t come through. I don’t want to hear anything about Tito [Terry Francona] bringing guys in early, the lineup not coming through, or anything else. This game is on me.
“My job when I’m called on is to finish the game. I didn’t do that. I take full responsibility for that.’’
Papelbon said he was up for the challenge of getting a five-out save after Bard put two runners on in the eighth.
“I welcome that,’’ he said. “This is the time of the year when Tito and the coaching staff [need] to lean on guys and I’m one of those guys and I didn’t come through tonight.’’
Asked about those who say that the team lacks fire, Papelbon said, “That’s completely asinine. There’s not anyone in this clubhouse that doesn’t want to win and go to the playoffs and make a playoff run.
“There’s no reason for us to say the walls are falling down and panicking. That’s not gonna happen in this clubhouse. Every single person in this clubhouse has been through adversity. Adversity is what is going to make us better. Period.’’
Bedard’s short start, in which he threw 76 pitches and allowed four runs, three of them unearned, was marked by a huge error by Josh Reddick in the third inning after one run was already in. Reddick dropped Vladimir Guerrero’s soft liner to right, leading to three additional runs and causing Bedard to throw more pitches.
“I just misread it,’’ Reddick said. “I came in and I thought he hit it hard enough and jumped a little too late and it hit off the end of the glove. A bad read.’’
Atchison came on to get out of the third by getting Chris Davis on a fly ball and worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Albers, who seems to have found his groove again, worked a scoreless inning.
The Sox have managed Papelbon’s innings closely in hopes that by the end of the season and into the playoffs they can call on him to pitch a little bit extra. That call came last night in the eighth with runners at first and second, one out, and Davis at the plate. Papelbon struck out Davis, and then Reimold’s single to left on the 0-and-2 pitch loaded the bases for Andino. Papelbon, whose pitches were clocked as high as 97 miles per hour, couldn’t quite get one past Andino.
The Sox scored first in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez against Baltimore starter Rick VandenHurk, a hard-throwing righthander who entered the game with a 6.00 ERA.
The Sox had a chance for more after David Ortiz walked and Carl Crawford singled, loading the bases. But Marco Scutaro just missed the wall with a long fly to left-center for the third out.
Bedard, who had been bothered by a sore left knee and a left lat strain, allowed hits in each of the first two innings but no runs.
In the third, he surrendered a one-out single to Andino and a two-out RBI double to Nick Markakis. Then came Reddick’s error, which enabled a run to score. After Bedard walked Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds struck with a two-run single through the shortstop hole. Atchison stopped the bleeding, though.
The Sox responded in their half with a homer by Gonzalez, his 27th, with Pedroia (double) aboard. The shot into the Monster seats gave Gonzalez three RBIs in the game and 116 for the season.
The Sox went ahead, 5-4, in the fourth. The first three men reached - on a Scutaro walk and singles by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles - as a run scored.
That was all for VandenHurk, as Orioles manager Buck Showalter called for lefty Jo-Jo Reyes.
Reyes didn’t fare well, either. Jacoby Ellsbury singled up the middle to load the bases, his 200th hit of the season. After Pedroia struck out, the Orioles became the Orioles.
On Gonzalez’s grounder to Reynolds at first base, he went home and knocked down the lead run. Wieters threw back to Reynolds to complete the double play, but Reynolds missed the throw, allowing Aviles to score the go-ahead run.
But the Sox couldn’t hold on.