While I hope the title of this post is true, I don't want to imply that pitching was the problem last night. Clay Buchhulz pitched the second best game of his young career last night throwing an 8 inning complete game only allowing 2 runs on 3 hits to go with 9 strike outs and 2 walks. The big problem was that the Sox could only muster 1 run, forcing Clay to take the loss for a brilliantly pitched game.
I'm sure there are fans out there who are questioning Terry Francona's decision to leave Clay in to face Rays' hero, Akinori Iwamura with a runner on and two outs in the 8th inning and the Sox clinging to a 1-0 lead. The alternative was to bring in a well rested Jonathan Papelbon to get the final four outs to preserve the win. The result was that Iwamuri guessed right in his chess match against the tandem of Buchholz and Varitek and was sitting on a curve ball that came in a little too high in the strike zone and left the ball field very high into the right field stands for a home run.
In hindsight, you'd love to have seen Papelbon come in, but at that moment Buchholz was still pitching very strong, and had the game well under control. If Terry had pulled Clay at that point, I would have thought, in that moment, that he should have let Clay get the last out in the 8th. Iwamura was 0-3 with two strikeouts against Buchholz up to that point. After allowing the home run, Buchholz struck out Carl Crawford on three straight pitches to end the inning, so you can see he still had it. It was just a chess match where Iwamura got in the last move. It is a shame Clay could not get a win for such a great night.
Big Papi was out of the lineup tending to a sore post-operative knee suffered from his desperate, noble, but ill-advised head first dive into first base the night before. That, combined with Sean Casey being placed on the 15 day DL, was enough to silence what had been up to now, a rather loud Red Sox Offense. But, Tampa Bay youngster Edwin Jackson had a terrific night as well only allowing a single run on 5 hits in 7 innings to keep pace with Buchholz.
The one run the Sox scored, they were lucky to score, thanks to a wild pitch. Speedy Coco Crisp was on first with one out. Jackson may have been distracted by Coco's threat to steal second, but he unleashed a wild pitch that rolled far enough away from the catcher that Crisp was able to sprint all the way to third. Jackson still almost escaped the inning but after striking out Julio Lugo for out number two, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a sharp grounder deep to third. Evan Longoria made a fabulous play off the ball to his right and fired a rifle shot to first that beat Ellsbury to the bag. But with Ellsbury running, he had to rush the throw and it pulled Carlos Pena off the bag. Ellsbury was safe, and Crisp scored the only run of the night.
Prior to the game, the Sox called up outfielder, Brandon Moss, to replace the injured Sean Casey. An interesting move, because the Sox are down to only 4 infielders on the active roster, so how does calling up an outfielder help? Moss has been doing some work at first base in Pawtucket to give him some more versatility for Boston, but he's still very new to the position. I suppose in an emergency, Moss would play first, and we almost got to see that strategy in action. In the fifth inning, Julio Lugo had issues with the home plate umpire's view of the strike zone, and got in a heated argument, not thinking that getting kicked out of the game would be the worst thing he could do for the team. Terry Francona was out of the dugout faster than chicken running from Colonel Sanders to get Lugo back in the dugout. Smarten up Lugo!
A loss today would allow the Rays to pull into a tie in the standings with the Sox. But, they have to get past a well rested Josh Beckett first. Just watch out for Beckett to keep from over-throwing. When a power pitcher is feeling too strong, he can overthrow and ride too high in the zone and get into trouble.
(Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports)