Miller sets a tone, the wrong one

After three tense games against the Yankees, the Red Sox looked like a team with a hangover tonight as they had two hits against three Texas pitchers. After Jacoby Ellsbury singled to start the bottom of the first and was picked off, the Rangers retired 26 of the next 27 hitters.

When I asked Terry Francona whether the Sox were feeling the effects of the Yankees series, he pointed out that Andrew Miller hadn’t played against New York.

On many nights in baseball, the starting pitcher sets the tone for the game. When Miller missed the strike zone on nine of his first 11 pitches, it wasn’t hard to see how this night would go.


The lefty ended up going 1.1 innings, giving up six runs on five hits and four walks. On nights like these, after a long and tough game the day before, the starter has to be the spark. But Miller only made it worse.

“I just never made the correct adjustment,” he said. “Killed us, lost the game, killed our bullpen. … Right now I’m just frustrated and disappointed in tonight’s outing.”

Tim Wakefield, who Miller replaced in the rotation, threw four scoreless innings of relief. Wakefield is scheduled to face Toronto on Wednesday with Miller going the next night. Those games could determine who remains a starter.

The Red Sox won’t need a fifth starter in the postseason. But they do need one for the rest of this month. Now that they trail the Yankees by a half-game, those starts can’t just be giveaways like tonight.

When the Red Sox traded for Jarrod Saltalamacchia last season, it seemed pointless. He had never succeeded as an everyday player despite several chances. But when you got a look at him in person, you saw why it was worth the risk. He’s a big guy with a powerful arm who switch hits, runs pretty well and hits for power.


The Sox hit the right buttons with Salty and look at him now. He may not be an All-Star but he’s a solid everyday catcher, a guy you can rely on.

Miller is the pitching version of Salty. He looks the part and he has all the tools needed to be an effective. But the Sox have to figure out how to flip that switch. He was terrific in his last two starts and tonight looked like a guy who wanted to be anywhere but on the mound at Fenway Park.

Is Miller another Salty or somebody who will be trying to make another team next season? That’s what the next few weeks will be about for him.

As to other matters:

• The Sox had their 700th straight sellout tonight. The fans got commemorative baseballs and when the game became official in the fifth inning, Terry Francona and the players tipped their caps to the fans.

“I actually think it’s really cool, maybe more cool than most people,” Francona said. “I’ve been in places where there’s been apathy and here’s nothing worse than that.”

The Red Sox have the longest sellout streak in baseball history. The record for the four major sports in North America is 814 by the Portland Trail Blazers from April 9, 1977 to Nov. 16, 1995.

• Francona on Carl Crawford: “He was really sick before the game. He wanted to play. That was when breakfast came up. When lunch came up, it was time to call it a night.”


• Michael Bowden fanned five, the most by a Sox reliever in less than two innings all season.

• David Ortiz had his 15-game hit streak snapped. He was 0 for 3.

That’s about it. Thanks to everybody for reading tonight and check back tomorrow.

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