KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The frustration is starting to boil over for the Red Sox.
Wednesday night's 4-3 loss against Kansas City was the eighth in the last 10 games. Jon Lester was undone by poor outfield defense and his own inability to finish off hitters.
The big lefty had entered with a 1.30 earned run average in seven starts against the Royals. But he was done after five innings and 108 pitches. Only one of the four runs he allowed was earned, but he also made it tough on himself.
“Too many pitches,” Lester said. “That was the theme throughout the game, too many pitches.”
The Sox are now 2-5 in the games Lester has started. He's supposed to be their ace and only rarely has he had much to smile about after games.
“It [stinks],'' Lester said. "Hell, nobody in this clubhouse came to this team, whether they were a free agent or got called up from this team or whatever, expecting to lose. Everybody in this clubhouse wants to win; everybody tries. … We’re just not doing it, plain and simple.
“It’s a cliché and it [stinks] to hear, but we need to keep showing up and keep grinding.”
Remember that energetic Bobby Valentine from spring training? He has been replaced by a man who looks 10 years older.
Valentine was left complaining about the umpires, specifically Jeff Nelson behind the plate.
With two runners on and no outs against Royals closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth, Valentine wanted Marlon Byrd to bunt. He pulled back from the first pitch, an inside fastball, and the ball appeared to strike him on the hand. Nelson called it a foul ball.
Byrd eventually got the bunt down but Valentine was still angry afterward.
“[Expletive] umpire can’t make the right call and get help? It’s a damn shame is what it is,” he said. “Be stubborn. It’s not his job to call the freaking play. Just get help.
"Then they don’t want replay. If they can’t get it right, they should freaking ask for help. Asked for help on the one in the outfield, I think they got it right. Why the [expletive] is it so hard to do at the end of the game?"
Nelson told a pool reporter, Mike Silverman of the Herald, that he didn’t need assistance.
“We usually don’t ask about a ball hitting a guy’s hand based on an umpire that’s 100 feet away,” he said. “You go on the best information that you have and also, if the batter had been offering at the pitch and the pitch had hit his hand, the result would be a strike and a dead ball. But my ruling was a foul ball.”
Meanwhile the Red Sox were held to three runs by the well-traveled Bruce Chen, who last beat them in 2005. He had allowed 12 runs on 15 hits in his last two starts.
Maybe the return of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Andrew Bailey, and Kevin Youkilis will turn the team around. It would be silly to raise the white flag on May 9.
But losing seven of nine against the A's, Orioles, and Royals is beyond startling. Cleveland arrives at Fenway Thursday.
It can't get any worse, can it?