ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Some teams are good enough to overcome the occasional physical error or lapse in judgment. The Red Sox were that kind of team a few years ago, covering their mistakes with superior talent and a relentless approach.
An ill-conceived roster and the numbing amount of injuries have changed all that. Now a mistake usually proves fatal. Saturday night's 5-3 loss was a great example.
Consider these mistakes (in chronological order):
With the Sox up, 2-1, they loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning. Pedro Ciriaco lined to right field, Ben Zobrist breaking in to make the play. Kelly Shoppach, the backup catcher, tried to tag up and is thrown out.
The man on deck? David Ortiz.
With the Sox up, 2-1, in the fifth inning, the Rays put a runner on third with one out. With the infield in, Jose Molina grounded to short. Mike Aviles had the time and the arm to make play at the plate. But the ball deflected off his glove.
Im mad at myself for rushing it because I had time, said Aviles, whose throwing error cost the Sox a run on Friday. I have to make that play.
With the Sox up, 3-2, in the seventh, Clay Buchholz assured Bobby Valentine he wanted to go back to the mound. He got what he wanted, but walked Luke Scott, a .201 hitter, on five pitches. Then he hit Jeff Keppinger.
It was Buchholz's only walk of the game and it set up a big inning for the Rays as they scored two runs to take the lead.
I was still trying to find my changeup at that point in the game and spiked a couple of them. It is what it is. Cant give free base runners to a team like this, Buchholz said.
In that same inning, Matt Albers faced Jose Lobaton with the bases loaded and one out. He walked him to force in the tying run. Lobaton is a .222 hitter. No pitcher is perfect. But you can't walk a guy like Jose Lobaton in that spot.
With the Sox down, 4-3, Jacoby Ellsbury led off the eighth with a double. The Sox have one of the fastest runners in the game at second without any outs. Ciriaco, on his own, decided to bunt for a hit. He fouled one off then popped the second one up to the catcher.
We werent trying for a tie on the road, Valentine said.
Said Ciriaco: I was on my own. I was trying to get something going.
After seeing the first bunt try, why not tell Ciriaco to swing away? He was 10 for 19 since being called up. This is probably the hottest he is every going to be in his life.
"He is proficient at bunting for a hit," Valentine said.
Not that proficient, as it turns out.
The Sox got the tying run to the plate in the ninth when Aviles singled off Fernando Rodney. Jarrod Saltalamacchia pinch hit for Kelly Shoppach and struck out out.
Light-hitting Brent Lillibridge and slumping Daniel Nava were next. But Valentine was out of options as Adrian Gonzalez (back) and Ryan Sweeney (left hamstring) were unavailable. Lillibridge struck out and Nava (7 of his last 60) flied to left.
Not sure if anybody keeps a stat for how many days a team has played shorthanded because of minor injuries. But the Red Sox have to have a huge lead.
The Sox are 23-32 in games decided by three runs or less. Its not hard to see why. At 44-44, they are now 10.5 games behind the Yankees in the American League East, their largest deficit of the season.
Kind of frustrating all the way around, Valentine said.
In what was expected to be his final minor league injury rehabilitation game, Carl Crawford for 2 for 5 with a run scored for Triple A Pawtucket against Buffalo.
The Red Sox have said they plan to activate Crawford off the disabled list on Monday. The left fielder has been out all season with wrist and elbow injuries. Crawford played 11 minor league games and had 44 plate appearances. He was 11 of 36 (.306) at the plate.