Loss of temper
Frustration boils over after Sox are swept by Nationals
Bobby Valentine’s frustration over Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals Sunday at Fenway Park was evident when the Red Sox manager arrived to make his postgame remarks.
He removed the cap from a water bottle before taking his seat, took a quick drink, then whipped the cap, it landing in the corner of the room.
While getting swept by the Nationals was disappointing enough, Valentine’s frustrations came to a boil when Dustin Pedroia took a called second strike with two outs and a runner aboard in the ninth.
It prompted Valentine to emerge from the dugout and lash out at plate umpire Al Porter, who handed the Sox manager his 39th career ejection and second this season.
“It was an accumulation,’’ Valentine said, when asked about his issue with Porter.
Valentine was referring to the top of the frame when Sox closer Alfredo Aceves (0-4, 4.99 ERA) gave up a double to Roger Bernadina that resulted in pinch hitter Bryce Harper, who drew a one-out walk, scoring the eventual winning run.
“I can’t complain,’’ Aceves said. “I missed the spot. Like I’ve been saying, there are tough hitters over there. We’ve got to make our pitch.’’
But Valentine believed Aceves had struck out Bernadina on a 1-and-2 fastball.
“The whole ball is on the plate and he calls a ball, and the guy gets an RBI,’’ Valentine said. “I’ve got guys battling their butts off and it’s not right. Good umpires had a real bad series this series, a real bad series. And it went one way. There should be a review.’’
Compounding the frustration was the fact the Sox (29-31) have lost six of their last seven games.
The Sox were handcuffed by Washington’s dazzling starting trio of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann, who went seven innings Sunday but did not factor in the decision, allowing three runs on seven hits, including a solo shot by David Ortiz in the fourth that gave the Sox a 2-1 lead.
“I thought they pitched well,’’ Valentine said. “And I thought they got pitches in key situations that weren’t strikes.’’
Combined, the Nationals’ starters held the Sox to seven runs on 14 hits and six walks while ringing up 25 strikeouts.
“We played good baseball this series, but they’re a pretty good team, too,’’ said Jon Lester, who started for the Sox on Sunday and allowed three runs on six hits, including a two-run double in the seventh by Danny Espinosa that gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead. Lester also had a pair of walks and worked an effective cutter and curveball to ring up a season-high nine strikeouts.
“There’s a lot of talent there, and they do a good job,’’ Lester said. “Obviously, the three pitchers we faced over the last three days did a good job.’’
When they embark on a six-game interleague road trip, beginning with three games at Miami starting tonight, it’s not likely the Sox will face pitching as dominant as the Nationals threw at them.
“Nobody’s ever been in this situation here; nobody’s lost before like this,’’ said Lester, after the Red Sox fell six games back in the division. “It’s all new. I’m sure, I can speak for myself, it aggravates you.
“I hate going out there and losing, regardless if I’m pitching or not. I know guys are frustrated, and rightly so. It sounds clichéd and I’ll keep saying it, but if we keep grinding out at-bats and we keep grinding out starts, something’s got to give.’’
After Lester gave up a run in the first on Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder to third, the Sox tied it in the third on Pedroia’s fielder’s choice that scored Nick Punto, who reached on a leadoff walk. Ortiz’s blast to the visitors’ bullpen broke the tie, but the Nationals rallied for a pair of runs on Espinosa’s double to the wall in left.
Zimmerman opened the seventh by giving up back-to-back singles to left to Ryan Sweeney and Punto. Both advanced when Darnell McDonald laid down a sacrifice bunt. Sweeney scored from third with the tying run when Scott Podsednik grounded to short.
Pedroia popped to center to end the inning, but after the Nationals scored in the ninth, he appeared to have a chance to atone when he came to the plate in the bottom of the frame with two outs and one man aboard after Kevin Youkilis hit for McDonald and drew a walk, before being subbed by pinch runner Mike Aviles.
Pedroia stranded Aviles, however, when he went down swinging against Tyler Clippard, who picked up his eighth save to make a winner of Tom Gorzelanny (2-1).
“It’s pretty disappointing,’’ Pedroia said. “We’re trying to compete - everyone is, both teams - and you don’t want [the umpires] to come into play and stuff like that. It’s hard enough playing a good game against good pitching and good players. It’s pretty disappointing.’’
Said Valentine, “The game is simple: throw it over the plate, it’s a strike; don’t throw it over the plate, call it a ball. It’s simple. That’s all that anybody asks. I know it’s been going on for 100 years, and I’m not the first one to say it. But this was a pretty lousy series.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.