Terry Francona entered the Fenway Park interview room just after 3 a.m. Thursday, processing the reality of a 5-3 loss to the Angels. It was a work day that encompassed almost eight hours from first pitch to last, and was punctuated by thoughts of what 13 innings had done to the past and future of his team.
"When I showed up today I didn't think I would be talking to you guys at 3 in the morning, and if I did I wish we'd have won," Francona said.
After four minutes of explanations, the manager got up and headed to his office, capping the meeting with another hard-to-swallow reality.
"See you guys soon," he said, locking in the pregame media get-together for Thursday's series finale for 11 a.m.
One day didn't end, and another didn't begin. Partly because of a two-hour, 35-minute rain delay, and somewhat due to five hours of baseball, the Red Sox find themselves in the midst of a very odd round of early May baseball.
These are some of the take-aways on a night/day when the Red Sox failed once again to reach .500, staying four games in back of the first-place Yankees, while playing in front of 11 people in the bleachers (equaling the total of both bullpens) for the final few innings. Starting with the most recent first …
A NEW WORLD FOR DAISUKE
For the first time since he pitched in the postseason for the Seibu Lions in 2004, Daisuke Matsuzaka found himself pitching out of the bullpen. The righty came on to pitch the 13th inning in what was a 3-3 deadlock.
The experience didn't go well for Matsuzaka, who allowed Bobby Abreu a two-out, bases-loaded single. (Abreu, by the way, was 0-for-6 heading into the at-bat but had hit .348 for his career with the bases loaded.)
Matsuzaka was scheduled to start Friday after not having pitched since the previous Friday due to elbow stiffness. The righty ended up throwing 20 pitches.
"The part that we felt a little more comfortable was it was his day to pitch, but there was nothing else to do," Francona explained. "It was a very difficult thing. We gave him as much of a head's-up as we could because he is so routine-oriented, as most starters are. We sent him out early and let him throw even though we knew [Daniel] Bard was going back out, just to give him a chance."
THROWN OUT AT THE PLATE
The Red Sox seemingly had the game won in the 12th inning when Kevin Youkilis launched a pitch from reliever Trevor Bell toward the top of the left-field wall with one out in the frame. While the ball didn't go out, it did hit high off the wall, seemingly presenting enough of an opportunity for Marco Scutaro -- who had singled -- to score from first.
But as Scutaro was racing around third, the Angels were executing a near-flawless relay from left fielder Vernon Wells to shortstop Erick Aybar to catcher Hank Conger. The result was the Sox baserunner being tagged out at home.
“They made it. They did what they had to do," Francona lamented. "That’s our chance to win the game, and they got it in the air, they got it where they needed to be. They beat him to the plate. We’re all on the top step of the dugout thinking maybe we can go home. Turns out we didn’t."
Francona also agreed that third base coach Tim Bogar actually was holding up the stop sign for Scutaro before the runner passed him.
"I think he was," the manager said. "At the end, I think he was."
THE BIG COMEBACK
What was shaping up to be a miserable night for the Red Sox took a sharp turn for the better thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury's ninth-inning heroics.
With two outs, Carl Crawford standing at second base and the count full against hard-throwing Jordan Walden, Ellsbury ripped a fastball into right field to send the game into extra innings.
The scene was set only after the Red Sox entered the inning trailing by a pair of runs. That deficit was cut to 3-2 thanks to a chaotic play in which Walden threw a wild pitch, allowing Jed Lowrie to reach third and Mike Cameron to move up to second. Conger's throw, attempting to get Lowrie at third, went awry, getting past third baseman Alberto Callaspo, allowing the Sox infielder to score.
But instead of the ball continuing on into the outfield, which surely would have given Cameron the opportunity to cross home plate as well, the errant throw hit off of third-base umpire John Hirschbeck. The ricochet stayed just close enough to Aybar at shortstop that he nailed Cameron trying to reach third for the inning's first out.
“The ball hits the umpire. I thought their guy made a pretty good play. He’s running full speed, bare-hands it," Francona said. "When that ball gets by third, Cam’s going. It’s unfortunate, because if it doesn’t hit the umpire, it probably rolls in the corner. Again, it’s unfortunate, but it’s hard to blame Cam for running right there. The result was terrible; I don’t second-guess what he was doing. [Aybar] ended up making a pretty good play."
THEY FINALLY GOT A HIT
It took until there was one out in the seventh inning, but the Red Sox ultimately did get a hit, an amazing notion considering more than two hours (and six innings) later, they possessed a total of 11 knocks.
Ervin Santana started the no-hit drama with four innings of hitless ball before he was forced from the game because of the rain delay. Reliever Rich Thompson proceeded to come on after the delay and pitch 1 2/3 innings without the Sox getting a hit.
Thompson was then followed by Scott Downs, who would ultimately open the gates for the Red Sox' late-inning hit parade, which was started when Lowrie lined a single to right with one gone in the seventh.
It was the latest the Red Sox had been held hitless since Chicago's John Danks locked down the Sox for 6 1/3 innings on Aug. 11, 2008. The hit off the lefty Downs also improved Lowrie's batting average against southpaws this season to .412.
DUSTIN PEDROIA HAD A ROUGH NIGHT
One of two Red Sox starters not to claim a hit, Pedroia, had one of the toughest nights at the plate he has experienced since joining the Sox. Not only did the second baseman go 0-for-6, he struck out four times. It marked the first time in his career that he had struck as many as three times in a single game. He had also never gone hitless in six at-bats before.
“Yeah, he was frustrated tonight," Francona said when asked about Pedroia's struggles.
The Sox' No. 2 hitter's batting average now stands at .241, the lowest it has been since since April 19, 2009. Pedroia is 3-for-18 in May (.167).
WHEELER ALSO HAD HIS PROBLEMS
Matt Albers came out of the rain delay in good-enough shape, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the game deadlocked at 0-0. Then came Dan Wheeler.
The righty, who had allowed at least one run in five of his previous 10 appearances, first gave up a leadoff double to Howie Kendrick. He then succumbed to a bomb off the bat of Vernon Wells, who found one of the left-field light towers for his third home run of the season.
The homer, which was the fifth surrendered by Wheeler this season, gave the Angels was seemed to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead. It also boosted the reliever's ERA to 11.32, with the Rhode Island native giving up 18 hits in 10 1/3 innings. The Red Sox now are 3-8 when Wheeler pitches.
ANOTHER GOOD SIGN FOR BECKETT
Josh Beckett eased some fears surrounding how he was going to bounce back from his 125-pitch outing two starts before. Some signs -- such as being pushed back a day, along with a carefully monitored bullpen session -- raised concerns that the starter might fall out of the groove he had been entrenched in for much of the season.
But, other than a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, Beckett acquitted himself in similar fashion as most of his previous five starts this season. The righty allowed just one hit (with three walks and three strikeouts) over 4 1/3 innings, throwing 68 pitches, and lowering his ERA to 2.35.
And while Beckett wasn't allowed to return due to the rain delay, there was a sense of optimism regarding the pitcher. His fastball sat at 94 mph, while he continued to use both offspeed pitches (changeup, curveball) with equal effectiveness, throwing each 10 times out of his 68 pitches.