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Eight was enough

Melancon’s outing was one to forget

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / April 18, 2012
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It was on the scoreboard in high-definition.

“40.50.’’

Mark Melancon was four batters into an ugly inning that would only manage to get uglier, and he had a dollars-and-cents ERA to show prove it.

He had given up a double to Ian Kinsler, walked Elvis Andrus on four pitches, got taken for a ride to deep right field by Josh Hamilton, and then for another to center by Adrian Beltre. Then he walked David Murphy.

Five batters, four runs, no outs.

The Sox were already down, 8-2, when the inning started, and the Rangers were taking a few parting shots at Melancon’s expense.

Adrian Gonzalez came over from first base to the mound, making sure the 27-year-old righthander wasn’t shellshocked.

“He was saying, ‘Hey, just get your mind off something else and go after this guy.’ ’’, said Melancon.

The next guy was Nelson Cruz, and he smacked another home run to center that officially ended Melancon’s night.

When he left, his ERA was 49.50.

The inning mushroomed into an eight-run disaster. The Sox fell, 18-3, and afterward Melancon had a hard time figuring out how to explain it.

“That’s the tricky thing right now is that I feel good,’’ he said. “Whether I’m opening up or showing the ball too early or something mechanically like that - something like that has to be going on. Balls have been left up in the zone and good hitters take advantage of that.’’

Melancon has given up runs in all four of his appearances, and picked up the loss in each of his first two, including Opening Day in Detroit.

He blew a save opportunity April 8 against the Tigers when he gave up three runs, including a two-run walk-off home run to Alex Avila.

After that loss, Gonzalez made it a point to talk to Melancon in the clubhouse just as he did when he went to the mound Tuesday.

“These guys have each other’s back and obviously they’re behind me and supporting me and I’m trying to do my best with that,’’ Melancon said. “I have to believe that I’m going to get better quicker.’’

Astronomical ERAs at this point in the season don’t matter, Sox outfielder Cody Ross said.

“Those 33.00 ERAs and those 0.69s aren’t going to be there all year,’’ Ross said. “We’ve got to remember that . . . We’ll just continue to keep picking him up and having confidence in him.’’

Jon Lester, who matched the shortest outing of his career, could empathize.

“It’s tough to see a teammate struggle,’’ Lester said. “I know the guy busts his butt every day and I’ve seen him almost overwork, trying to get himself right. He’s in one of those deals right now where he gets behind in the count, and I’m sure he feels like [he needs to] make a quality pitch and he gets hit hard.’’

He threw a side session before the game and was pleased.

“I was working on keeping the ball down and reaching out and extending and I wanted to take that into the game, but sometimes you don’t want to out-think yourself out there,’’ Melancon said. “You’ve got to do what you know how to do and not worry about working on stuff out in the game. So I was trying to keep an even balance of that.

Manager Bobby Valentine said he had hoped that two innings would “straighten him out,’’ but with Melancon’s continued struggles, he acknowledged the possibility of a minor-league stint.

“At this time, you have to consider everything,’’ Valentine said.

“Mentally, I felt good,’’ Melancon said. “Physically, I felt good. So I’m going to keep working.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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