Okajima helps give one away

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Was this the day the season ended?

Up 2-1, the Red Sox were six outs away from heading to Anaheim having taken three out of four from the hapless Mariners.

Instead, they were beaten 4-2 and arrive in California eight games out of first place, their biggest deficit since May 23. They are five games out in the wild card.

The loss was befuddling. After Daniel Bard allowed a single in the eighth inning, Terry Francona took him out and called in Hideki Okajima. Francona expained later that matchups had nothing to do with it, it was because Bard had thrown 18 pitches and they didn’t want to overwork him.

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The hope was to turn switch-hitter Justin Smoak around then give Okajima a chance to face lefty hitting Casey Kotchman and Michael Saunders. In Francona’s mind, he was putting Okajima in a position to succeed.

Were Okajima a good pitcher, that may have been the case. But as this blog and others have pointed out, Okajima has been in a steady decline.

True to form, he allowed five straight hits. Two were on misplayed bunts. On the first, Okajima fielded the ball and didn’t seem to know what to do.

Third baseman Adrian Beltre, asked about the play, told reporters it would be better to ask Okajima about the play. But Okajima, also true to form, refused to speak to reporters. He was asked twice by the team’s Japanese media liaison and passed both times.

Part of being a professional athlete is being accountable to fans — and to your teammates. It was interesting to see the reaction of the players as Okajima walked away. Several shook their heads.

At this point, what has Okajima done to merit being on the roster? He has a 1.97 WHIP and only 24 strikeouts in 31 innings. Lefties are 21 of 61 (.344) against him.

The Sox are 3-4 on their 10-game and are on their way to Anaheim now. Check back tomorrow for more.

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As always, thanks for reading.

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