Red Sox find another way to lose
CLEVELAND — Bad teams like the Red Sox invariably come up with unique ways to lose games. They outdid themselves on Saturday night against the Cleveland Indians.
There were two base-running blunders, a balk that led to a run scoring and the stunning sight of light-hitting former teammate Brent Lillibridge driving in two runs against them and scoring two others.
It added up to a 5-2 loss against the Indians before a crowd of 27,894 at Progressive Field.
That’s four losses in the last five games for the Red Sox, all against the Twins and Indians. They have lost eight of 11 overall and now trail the Yankees by 12 games in the American League East, their largest deficit of the season.
The Sox will try for a split in the series this afternoon with Jon Lester on the mound. He hasn’t won a game since June 27.
Lillibridge was 2 for 16 and didn’t have an RBI in the 10 games he played for the Red Sox from June 25 until he was designated for assignment on July 16. His departure barely made news, so insignificant was his contribution.
“No hard feelings. Bobby [Valentine] gave me a chance against lefties and I didn’t produce. I have all the respect in the world for Bobby. He treated me well. It just didn’t work,” Lillibridge said after going 3 for 4 with a home run and double. “It was fun to be involved in so many things.”
Until Saturday, Lillibridge had two RBIs all season in 69 games with the White Sox and Red Sox.
He was obtained from the Chicago as part of the Kevin Youkilis trade. The Red Sox dealt him to Cleveland on July 24 for Double A righthander Steven Wright.
Franklin Morales (3-3) allowed only two hits over 5 1/3 innings but gave up three runs and took the loss. He walked a season-high four and struck out six.
“He pitched good, he pitched pretty damn good,” Valentine said. “Good enough to win.
But a day after losing rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks to a fractured right hand, the Red Sox were held to four hits.
Zach McAlllister (5-4) went a career-best eight innings for the win, giving up two runs on three hits. He had four strikeouts without a walk. Chris Perez finished the game for his 31st save.
McAllister retired the first nine Red Sox in order before Ellsbury doubled high off the wall in center field to start the fourth inning.
Carl Crawford bunted and was safe at first when Lillibridge fielded the ball, looked to third and made a late throw.
Dustin Pedroia was next and he grounded to third. Ellsbury came off the base, causing Lillibridge to hesitate again and the Sox had the bases loaded.
Adrian Gonzalez hit a fastball high in the air to left field. The ball hit the wall, allowing Ellsbury to score with Crawford right behind him.
Pedroia also tried to score but was tagged out, unable to slide because he was so close to Crawford. It looked like a botched relay race at the Olympics.
It was tough play for third base coach Jerry Royster to control because the runners were so close together.
“If you’re going to hold one up, you’re going to hold them both up,” Valentine said. “It’s a very, very, very difficult play.”
What made it difficult was Crawford pausing to see if the ball would hit the wall.
“Me, I wanted to make sure it was off the wall. I didn’t know Pedey was running behind me,” Crawford said. “It seemed like he knew off the bat.”
Ellsbury led off the sixth inning with a double to center field. But despite the play being in front of him, he tried for third and was thrown out by Brantley.
After Lillibridge put the tag on him, Ellsbury threw his helmet in disgust. With Crawford, Pedroia and Gonzalez coming up, making the first out of the inning at third base was a mistake the Red Sox could not afford.
“If he had to do it again, he wouldn’t do it again,” Valentine said.
But Ellsbury disagreed.
“I was being aggressive and trying to make something happen,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do when you’re not scoring runs.”
Lillibridge hit his first home of the season when he connected on a Morales fastball in the third inning and drove it into the seats in left field. It was his first home run since last Aug. 31.
“I tried to throw my fastball, that’s my best pitch. He got me,” Morales said.
Michael Brantley walked to start the fifth inning for Cleveland. He took second on a balk, the fifth of the season for Morales and the ninth for the Red Sox. That is the most balks for any one pitcher and any team in the majors.
Lillibridge then knocked an RBI single into center field.
The Indians took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning without the benefit of a hit.
A walk, a hit batter and an intentional walk loaded the bases. With Morales at 108 pitches, lefthander Andrew Miller was called in to face Brantley. A sacrifice fly to left field gave the Indians a 3-2 lead.
The lead grew to 4-2 against Mark Melancon in the seventh inning and Lillibridge was right in the middle of the action again.
He led off with a double, moved to third when Casey Kotchman grounded out and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Lou Marson.
Ezequiel Carerra added an RBI single off Craig Breslow in the eighth inning.