ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jarrod Saltalmacchia spoke the truth after the Red Sox' 4-0 loss to the Rangers Monday night.
Question: Does this defeat, or the fact that the Rangers have now won all four of their meetings with the Sox this season, mean anything come October?
"No, not at all," the catcher said. "That's the way the game is. We're missing three key pieces of our lineup. On top of that, we don't play these guys all the time. This is the second time we've seen them. Tomorrow, you'll come in and maybe say something different, totally opposite."
All true. No David Ortiz. No Kevin Youkilis. No Jacoby Ellsbury.
Sure, the case for concern could still be made. Texas has out-scored the Red Sox 30-11 this season. The Rangers starting pitchers have a 2.13 ERA against the second-highest scoring team in the American League. The Sox starters have totaled a 9.28 ERA vs. Texas, having allowed a .318 batting average against.
One-sided? Certainly. But, as Saltalamacchia noted, not worthy of October-related panic.
There was something, however, that should have raised some red flags for the Red Sox when it comes to the images portrayed in the series opener. That thing is a pitcher named C.J. Wilson.
Forget Justin Verlander. Don't stress about CC Sabathia. Jered Weaver? Justin Masterson? Fausto Carmona and Ubaldo Jimenez? These aren't the series scene-setters that should elicit fear for Red Sox fans. Wilson, on the other hand, is another story. It was a reminder that popped up once again Monday, and will continue to linger until further notice.
"Wilson's a good pitcher," said the lefty's former catcher, Saltamacchia. "He's having another great year. He's able to mix four pitches. When you can mix four pitches and throw strikes with them, he's a tough guy to hit. He pitches to contact, tries to get you to swing at his pitch. He pitched well."
The man identified on Twitter as "@Str8edgeracer" is good, but against the Red Sox he has been great. And that was what should be the be-all, end-all when deciphering the importance of Monday night.
In the last two seasons no pitcher has done to the Red Sox what Wilson has done. In five games he has totaled a 1.08 ERA, limited the Sox to a .181 batting average and hasn't given up a single home run. Four times the lefty has gone 6 2/3 innings or more, allowed four hits or less, and one run or less. Since the start of last season, only Wilson and Tampa Bay's David Price have won at least four games against the Red Sox.
And, just for good measure, right-handed Red Sox hitters now have a .155 batting average against Wilson.
Looking for saviors in the Sox' lineup when going up against Wilson? Good luck. Ellsbury is 2-for-4, Adrian Gonzalez is 3-for-7, and Dustin Pedroia has four hits in 10 at-bats. After that you have Carl Crawford going 3-for-18, Darnell McDonald is 1-for-9, Marco Scutaro has two hits in 21 at-bats, and the Sox' catching combo of Jason Varitek and Saltalamacchia is 0-for-7. And Ortiz -- one of the key missing pieces from the series opener -- has just one hit in 13 at-bats against the 30-year-old.
No pitcher who has faced the Red Sox at least four times over the past two seasons has been tougher on Terry Francona's team than Wilson. Masterson is close (1.95 ERA in four starts), as are Carmona (2.25, four starts) and Verlander (2.38, three starts).
Adding to the worry is that Wilson seems to have found his stride heading into the regular season's final month, having gone 3-0w ith a 1.37 in four August starts. And he has done it when it counts the most, having turned in a 6 1/3-inning, two-hit, scoreless gem against Tampa Bay in last season's American League Division Series, along with a seven-inning, three-run outing vs. the Yankees in the ALCS and a World Series outing against San Francisco in which he surrendered two runs in six innings.
"His stuff is just filthy, and when we've had our full lineup, he's gone through us," Francona said. "I don't know that you can make an excuse. He's got a lot of good pitches, and he went right through us. We had a couple of chances, but then he made really good pitches."
Something think about, courtesy a very memorable southpaw.
Here are some other things we learned in the Red Sox' 50th loss of the season:
ONE BAD PITCH, BUT ANOTHER DECENT OUTING
For the first 100 pitches, Erik Bedard was very, very good. He had allowed one run -- coming on Elvis Andrus' seeing-eye single to left field in the third inning -- while befuddling the third-highest scoring offense in the American League.
"He's tough every time we face him," said Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. "He's tough to rattle. You can't really rattle him. He uses all three of his pitches really well, and he has that big curveball. He's pretty much the same guy. Every time I've faced him he has seemed like the same guy. He's good."
"He was tough on us tonight," said Texas first baseman Mike Napoli. "He was sharp. Throwing his curveball, keeping us off-balance. He was as good as I've seen him before."
But on pitch No. 101 -- one away from getting out of the sixth inning -- Bedard's 92 mph, 1-2 fastball was deposited over the right field wall by the player the Red Sox attempted to trade for at this time last season, Napoli (who now has homers in his last four games against the Red Sox). Whether or not the first baseman was planning on seeing such a pitch, it appeared to be quality offering that was outdone by a better swing.
"It was what we wanted to do," said Saltalamacchia. "We had a lefty on deck. We weren’t going to give in on him. We tried to elevate a fastball. We thought we did a good job of that. He’s having a hell of a year too. He’s hitting the ball well. It’s frustrating, but we still have to score some runs. Obviously if it’s one run, it’s a little more comfortable than four. But we’ve still got to do our job and score some runs."
Up until the home run, this was the pitcher that the Red Sox had hoped they were getting at the non-waiver trade deadline.
"I mean, yeah," said Bedard when asked if this was another sign his command was improving. "But at the end of the day, we lost. I just made a mistake, and he hit the ball out of the ballpark."
THE CATCH THAT NEVER WAS
With Craig Gentry at first and one out in the third inning, Kinsler hit a sinking line-drive to right field. Josh Reddick swooped in and appeared to make the catch, promptly throwing the ball to first base for what he believed was an inning-ending double play.
Instead, first base umpire Doug Eddings ruled that Reddick had trapped the ball, allowing runners to stay at first and second. One batter late, Elvis Andrus singled in Gentry for the game’s first run.
When it was all said and done, the play forced Bedard to not only allow the run, but throw 11 more pitches, which may have played a factor by the time he allowed the homer to Napoli.
Kinsler’s opinion? “Base hit to right, that’s my take on it,” he said with a grin.
Moments earlier, those in the Red Sox clubhouse had a different view of things.
“I thought he caught it,” said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
“Nothing much other than I clearly caught it, in my opinion,” said Reddick when asked his opinion.
“I thought he caught it. In fact, I know he caught it. When an umpire says he’s sure and he’s not … I don’t know what to do,” saidFrancona.
Replays showed that Reddick did, indeed, make the catch, which was of little consolation to those on the losing end.
“I haven’t, no,” said the outfielder when asked if he had watched the replay. “But I was 100 percent sure I caught it because if I don’t catch that it definitely bounces and hits off my chest instead of going into my glove.”
And then there was his immediate reaction, which was the throw to first instead of second.
“That’s just reaction and instinct,” he said. “If you know you didn’t catch it you’re going to try and get him out at second. I looked up and the baserunner was halfway between both of them. Just part of the game.”