Clay Buchholz was both frustrating and masterful in the Red Sox’ 6-5 loss to the Rays on Saturday night. Three walks and four unearned runs left those on hand at Fenway displeased in the first inning, though Terry Francona stuck with the young starter – not warming a reliever at any point in the first despite Buchholz’ struggles with command and confidence.
Buchholz couldn’t seem to make the final out in the first after Mike Cameron dropped what appeared to be an easy lineout off the bat of Carlos Pena, and from there the Red Sox embarked upon a night that didn’t see much offensive output until the seventh inning, during which Dustin Pedroia belted a two-run bomb off Rays starter James Shields (6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, BB, 7 SO, 2 HR) and became the first second baseman in Red Sox history to hit five homers in the month of April.
After Kevin Youkilis added a two-run shot of his own in the same inning, the Red Sox appeared to be in business, down by just one run. The Sox, who went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, failed to add another run in the final two innings as Shields earned the victory and Rafael Soriano earned his second save of the night.
Considering the night began with the completion of what proved to be a 3-1 loss in 12 innings, with Manny Delcarmen serving up a two-run homer to Pat Burrell in the bottom of the 12th, it was an extremely disappointing night for the home team. The Red Sox now trail both the Yankees and Rays by four games in the AL East.
Here are five things learned from 12 ½ innings of baseball, none of which did the Sox any good in the standings.
THIS IS NOT PLAYOFF BASEBALL
The general consensus after a rough night for the Red Sox was that it was early in the season and that it’s too early to begin looking at the standings or worrying about losses. Buchholz said following the second game that the team is “too good to be worried,” while manager Terry Francona said the Red Sox are “a good enough team” that the early struggles will “even out.”
Presented with the notion, Dustin Pedroia, who very easily could have been celebrating his monumental night, emphatically gave his view.
“We’ve got to start playing good,” Pedroia said. “You’ve got to hit the ball good, you’ve got to play good defense, you’ve got to pitch good. If we don’t start doing that, we’re not going to be good. We aren’t going to be a playoff team, I can tell you that,” he added. “We’ve got teams that want to [beat us badly], so we’ve got to come out and play better.”
With the loss, the Red Sox fell to 4-7 on the season.
“We’ve got to start winning,” Pedroia said. “You don’t dig yourself a hole against the teams in our division, because they’re pretty darn talented.”
IN PITCHER'S DUEL, THE RED SOX RAN OUT OF REINFORCEMENTS
As hard as it may be to remember an entire 24 hours back, the Rays' 3-1 victory in the first game began with the Red Sox' Beckett and the Rays' Wade Davis taking turns shutting down one another's offense. Beckett went seven strong and allowed just an unearned run while Davis tossed five innings of one-run ball.
As the night(s) continued on, each team's bullpen rose to the occasion in a game in which their respective starters set the bar appropriately high for the AL East. Grant Balfour, Randy Choate and Dan Wheeler combined for three scoreless innings on Friday while Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon each threw a scoreless inning to complete the first nine frames for the Sox.
When the suspended match continued on Saturday, the Red Sox were shorthanded in the bullpen due to the birth of Papelbon’s first son on Saturday. Even so, the team appeared to be in the driver's seat when Daniel Bard threw 16 of 17 for strikes in two perfect innings while Lance Cormier looked shaky at times in three frames.
A decision to replace Bard with Manny Delcarmen for the 12th inning proved costly, as the precedent set throughout the game’s first 11 innings went out the window just as quickly as Pat Burrell's game-winning two-run shot left the ballpark. Despite the aggressive offensive approach combining with Bard’s sharpness to make quick work of the Tampa Bay hitters, Bard watched a 12th inning that he felt he could have pitched in, though he understood the logic.
“I definitely could have gone three,” Bard said after the completion of the second game. “I only threw 17 pitches. That wasn’t really a factor though. I think they wanted me available (Sunday). I told them I probably could have gone in the second game if they needed me but they said that wasn’t an option.”
Bard struck out two Rays hitters in his two innings. Conversely, it took Cormier, who picked up the win for the Rays, 46 pitches to get through his three innings. Despite how good he felt, Bard said there was little discussion regarding whether he could face the Rays in the 12th.
“Right when I walked into the dugout after two (innings) they said, ‘Great job. You’re done,’” Bard said, confirming Terry Francona’s statement following the first game that the team didn’t consider expanding his workload.
BUCHHOLZ WANTS MORE THAN PROGRESS
If Clay Buchholz' line in his first four innings read 2H, 2 BB, 6 K with no runs, one would find it confusing that he was treated to multiple Bronx cheers in his outing. He did record the aforementioned numbers, though he did it in his final four innings of work.
Buchholz' opening frame was largely forgettable, though the blame shouldn't fall solely on the young hurler. In fact, the resilience the 25-year-old showed can be taken as yet another sign that he has the makings of starter capable of anchoring a rotation.
Still, what seemed to irk Buchholz following the second game was the idea that he can build on the start – a loss -- as he moves forward.
“It’s getting pretty boring ‘building’ every time out,” Buchholz said following the game. “The string of four innings, I threw pretty well. It was just the first inning. I must have lost a little bit of concentration and it hurt me.”
As for Cameron’s blunder that allowed for the Rays’ big inning, Buchholz noted that such situations will arise.
“It was a misfortune, I guess,” Buchholz (who threw five innings, allowing four runs – none earned – on three hits and four walks while fanning seven) said. “I got the fly ball, thought it was an out, and things happen. It wasn’t [an out]. I lost concentration, walked a couple of guys, left a fastball up to Burrell and he put it down the right-field line and that’s the story on that.”
THE DEFENSE IS DISAPPOINTING TO DATE
The Red Sox had plenty of problems in Saturday night’s game. The team had to wait for homers from Marco Scutaro, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis in order to get any offense. They didn’t do anything with runners in scoring position all night. They struggled early against James Shields before finally solving him in the seventh. The list goes on, though such a list would unquestionably have the defense at or around the top.
Two of the players expected to bolster the Red Sox’ defense and help with run-prevention did just the opposite on Saturday night. The season is still extremely young, but in recent days this winter’s defensive improvement has seemed a misnomer.
After booting a routine ground ball in the top of the sixth inning of Saturday's game, Scutaro now has three errors in his first 11 games with the Red Sox. If extrapolated by a paranoid fan, that start puts him on pace to record more errors than Edgar Renteria’s 30 in 2005. While Scutaro’s error didn’t prove costly in the form of a run, Cameron’s misplay was an early blow that gave the Rays the lead for good.
“I don’t make any excuses, but it kind of cut on me,” Cameron said of the ball hit by Pena. “It was just kind of a little cut or something.
“I’ve made that play a million times. You know I’m going to get knuckles out there sometimes, but for some reason that ball had a little cut on it. I still should have made the play. It just happened at the end.”
The Red Sox, who entered the game 17th in the league with six errors, now have eight errors through 11 games.
IF THEY RUN, THEY RUN
Or so the Sox say. Carl Crawford stole third base uncontested after singling in the top of the first inning of the second game and scored as a result of Cameron’s error. It didn’t end there for the Rays.
After Scutaro mishandled his ground ball, Upton stole his third base of the season in the top of the sixth with Pat Burrell at the plate (he was also originally credited with a steal of third during the same at-bat but the scoring was later corrected to a wild pitch by Scott Atchison.)
Terry Francona said prior to the completion of the first game that he doesn’t put too much stock into the Rays’ streak of consecutive bases stolen against the Red Sox, which now stands at 32. Francona said that such stats can be skewed by two-out stolen bases that are uncontested early in games. Still, the Rays have been burning up the basepaths against the Red Sox for longer than Francona wants to remember, though he won’t let it overtake the Red Sox’ strategy.
“Some of the things they do well,” Francona, referring to the stolen bases, said, “we have not defended very well. … We don’t want to let it get in the way of what we’re doing.”