Sunday, June 29, 2008

Red Sox Bullpen Falters as Red Sox Lose to Houston

That game was not what we expected. Jon Lester has been pitching very well lately, and so has the bullpen. But, neither one could keep the Astros from scoring yesterday, even when the Red Sox offense was willing and able to put lots of runs on the board. Lester actually did a bit better than the score would indicate. He had good innings in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and only gave up a solo home run in the 5th on a curveball that stayed up to Carlos Lee. But, the 3rd inning was his downfall.

Jon LesterThe inning started off with a hit by pitch and an infield single to put two men on, but Lester came right back to induce a ground out and a strike out. But, to get out of the inning, he'd have to retire Carlos Lee, who was having a hot day. Alas, Lee got a hold of a fastball for a single to drive in two runs. The next batter, Miguel Tejada, hit a ball off of Lester's ankle for a single. Lester was a bit hobbled but stayed in the game. I have to think the ankle was still throbbing when he threw his next pitch to Mark Loretta (remember him?). Loretta is not a power hitter, but Lester threw him an 88 mph meatball that Mark launched for only his third home run of the year. If not for the ball off the ankle, Lester's night may have gone much differently.

The five runs by the Astros in the 3rd were an answer to the Red Sox, who had just scored 4 runs in the top of the inning, all with two outs, thanks to back to back RBI doubles by Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell and an RBI single by Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox also had a big rally in the 6th inning, scoring 5 runs to take a 9-6 lead.

Mike Lowell HomersNow, a 9-6 lead against the Astros heading into the bottom of the 7th inning would seem like an automatic win for Boston, whose bullpen has been terrific lately. But, every once in a while, a pitcher just can't get it done. We've seen it happen to everyone, including Hideki Okajima, and even Jonathan Papelbon. Last night, it was Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen who were the culprits. David Aardsma had pitched a nifty 1-2-3 6th inning, but started the 7th off with a walk and a single. Terry Francona tried to be careful by bringing in Hansen, but Hansen allowed two runs to score in his first two batters. The first came off a single to Lance Berkman, and then a passed ball with Carlos Lee batting. The passed ball was charged to Jason Varitek, but it was a poor pitch that was no where near where Varitek had set up. That brought the Astros to within 1, with the score now 9-8.

Manny DelcarmenWe'd normally love to see Okajima and Papelbon wrap up the last two innings, but Francona went with Manny Delcarmen this time. He waged a tough battle against the first batter, Ty Wigginton, but Ty won the battle in a big way with a solo home run to tie the game. Manny kept battling and had runners at first and second (a single and a walk) and two outs. But, the pesky Lance Berkman came up again and went the opposite way to double in two runs. The pitch that Manny threw was a good one, it was low and away, tailing away from Lance. But, Lance went with the pitch and did a nice job of hitting. In my opinion, the batter won that batter (as opposed to the pitcher losing the battle).

But, the damage was done, and Mike Lowell's solo home run in the 9th was just a teaser as the Astros held on to win 11-10.

Luckily for the Sox, the Rays lost yesterday in extra innings to the Pirates, allowing Boston to hold on to a 1/2 game lead for first place. The Sox have one more game today against the Astros, with Josh Beckett on the mound, before heading to Tampa Bay tomorrow. Josh not only has a chance to win the game, but also has a chance to become the first Sox pitcher of 2008 to get a hit! Today is the last inter league game for the Red Sox, so until we get to the World Series, this is it for pitchers to hit.

(Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)


Peter N said...

Another falter by Okie. Geez, what a difference a year makes. Now we're in Tampa, ready to face their three best pitchers. And then on to the Big Seedless Apple, because that's what the Yankees are...seedless and punchless, at least pitching-wise.
Rooster, did you hear about that mini-Manny altercation with the Sox travelling secretary? I hadn't until this morning. I reprinted the Projo article, with my comments, this morning. What do you think? I respect and value your opinion about ANYTHING Red. Pete...have a great week. And boy, my hits matched an alltime low Friday through Sunday, but I'm here through the goods and the bads. Go Sox...Shields tonight.

Rooster said...

Looking forward to the Yankees, Peter. Seems like it has been too long since we've played them. They'll play us tough, but you are right, their starting pitching needs a boost if they want to stay in the race.

Tampa will be a tough series. They are hot right now, and we are not, and they swept us last time we went to their house.

Manny has been more on edge this season it seems. It is not like him to snap like that, and he's done that twice. Makes me wonder if he's putting too much pressure on himself this season, or if he has issues outside of baseball stressing him out. Either way, I think everyone, including Manny, realizes he was wrong, snapped, and apologized. Good enough. Just worry if he still has issues hidden under those dreadlocks.