NEW YORK — Francisco Cervelli had not swung a bat in a professional baseball game since Aug. 29 when he was in Triple A. His last major league plate appearance was on Sept. 8, 2011.
Yet he had to bat with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning on Tuesday night because the Yankees were out of catchers.
Cervelli hit .246 in Triple A this season with two home runs in 354 at-bats. As he came to the plate, he was about as harmless as harmless gets in the big leagues.
Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller threw two sliders. Cervelli took one for a strike and swung at missed at the other one. It was 0-and-2.
In his 560 career plate appearances in the major leagues from 2008-2011, Cervelli has fallen behind 0-and-2 a total of 83 times. On only 12 occasions did he eventually manage a hit and nine of those were singles. He had struck out 38 times.
Again, harmless as a kitten. But Miller threw four consecutive pitches to Cervelli that missed the plate. He took them all and walked. Two batters later, Cervelli scored from second on a Raul Ibanez single and the Yankees had beat the Sox, 4-3.
The sequence to Cervelli explains in part why the Red Sox are such a bad team. In a critical spot against a weak hitter, their plan was to trick him. Not throw him a strike and go on to the next inning.
“I thought I made some good pitches for him to chase,” Miller said. “He didn’t.”
Miller was asked why he didn’t just go after Cervelli instead of working the corners.
“I missed with a 2-2 pitch and the 3-2 pitch was pretty darn close,” Miller said. “Yeah, I wish one of them had been over the plate.”
Miller is right in the sense that three of the pitches were fairly close. But why play around?
The Sox are a bad team because they have a weak roster, one decimated by injuries and trades. But the reason they are 69-92 and buried in last place is because they are 2-10 in extra innings and 17-22 in one-run games. They have eight walk-off losses.
Being a bad team is one thing. The Red Sox are bad team that doesn’t play very smart. You deserve to lose when you walk a guy like Cervelli. And that is exactly what happened.
• Andrew Bailey isn’t exactly building up credibility with Red Sox fans. He allowed a two-run homer by Ibanez in the ninth inning to blow his third save in nine chances.
“I let the team down,” Bailey said. “What happened these last two weeks is only going to keep me motivated.”
Opponents are hitting .370 against Bailey since Sept. 1.
• Mark Melancon retired Mark Teixeira and Robbie Cano with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth after the Ibanez homer. There’s some serious moxie.
Melancon’s last 8 outings: 10 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, BB, 12 K. He’s bad a terrible season but the stuff is still there.
• Jon Lester left the game after 5 innings because of a sore back that started when he was warming up. He allowed one run and pitched pretty well.
“We finished fifth. It’s not good enough,” Lester said. “It’s been a long year for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. I’m glad it’s over and we move on. Over for me.
“Going to a much-needed offseason, regroup and come back to spring training next year ready to kick some people’s asses.”
Tough talk is all well and good. But after posting a 4.82 ERA, Lester has a lot of work to do.
The lefty also issued a bit of a challenge to the front office when asked about the Dodgers trade and the ugly aftermath.
“It’s surprising, but it’s something that was needed, they felt was needed on their part. Just like [the front office] have our backs, we have their backs,” he said.
“It was their decision to make. We have to support them and know that, going into this offseason, they have to support us and produce another good team next year — which we all believe they will.”
• Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 5 with a walk and a run scored with a broken finger.
• Mike Aviles has played in only three of the last 14 games. Can’t imagine the Sox have much intention to bring him back after treating him like that. That Jose Iglesias (.108) was allowed to hit in the 11th inning with runners at first and second and two outs says a lot.
He grounded softly to third, ending the inning.
• The Sox are 5-12 against the Yankees this year, getting outscored 102-68.
Quite a night. One game left to play and hopefully you’ll stick around for tomorrow.
Also, my apologies for all the issues with the comments section. All I know is that people who can fix such things are working on them. The switch to a new system has not gone smoothly but the kinks will be ironed out. Thanks for hanging with us.