SAN FRANCISCO -- The Red Sox are having a difficult time keeping momentum on their side these days.
The end result of their latest step back was a 3-2, walkoff loss at the hands of the Giants Tuesday night. It might not have been the most devastating defeat of the season for the Red Sox, but in terms of frustration, it offered plenty.
Starter Jake Peavy pitched well once again. The offense jumped out to another early lead. And it appeared as though the bullpen was set up just the way the Sox wanted.
But in a blink of the eye -- and after a controversial ball four -- the Red Sox now find themselves having gone a full two weeks without winning two games in a row.
"A loss is a loss," Peavy said. "Obviously you don't like to lose the way we lost tonight in a game we felt like we had some chances early to bust it open and we didn't. My last two have been kind of like this, losing one-run games. We'll be better. We understand we've got to find a way to come out on top."
How the Red Sox lost this one was quick and painful for their legions of fans who attempted to counteract a rambunctious Giants contingent.
The teams headed into the bottom of the ninth deadlocked in a 2-2 tie, and Franklin Morales started the frame. The Red Sox already had burned through relievers Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa, with Brandon Workman having worked the two previous games and Drake Britton also unavailable.
Morales managed two outs sandwiched around a Roger Kieschnick single. But that's when the wheels fell off. The lefty reliever walk Andres Torres before hitting Hector Sanchez with a pitch to load the bases. That led to Red Sox manager John Farrell bringing in the only other available reliever other than closer Koji Uehara, Brayan Villarreal, to face Marco Scutaro with the bases loaded. (Farrell wanted to save his closer as long as possible in case his team took a lead.)
Upon seeing the Red Sox make the move to Villarreal -- the righty who was making his Boston debut after being dealt from Detroit in the Jose Iglesias trade -- Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens told Marco Scutaro that the Sox reliever had control issues. Villarreal had, after all, walked eight of his 28 batters this season, having also allowed a walk and single in the only two bases-loaded situations he had this season.
"When [Meulens] told me that, I wanted to make sure I looked for my pitch and not be too aggressive," Scutaro told reporters.
The Giants second baseman watched as Villarreal missed fairly significantly on his first three pitches before finally finding what looked to be a good chunk of the strike zone on pitch No. 4. But home plate umpire Mike Everitt ruled the final pitch a game-ending ball, setting off a somewhat confused celebration by the hosts.
"Vill couldn't find it, he just got behind," said Red Sox catcher David Ross. "You can't do that in that situation. The 3-0 pitch was close, but I think the umpire has been giving that pitch for most of the night. But when you're 3-0 and haven't thrown a strike yet, they tend to -- borderline pitches are probably going to be a ball. It was hard to tell … 3-0 you usually get that, but we shouldn't' be in that situation to begin with is the bottom line."
As for why Villarreal was the choice in that situation, Farrell explained after the game.
“We start out the inning in pretty good shape and seemingly in a matter of seven or eight pitches, it looked like Franklin lost the strike zone a little bit, and it leaves us in a tough spot with two outs," the manager said. "Just the uncertainty of strike-throwing and knowing how patient Scutaro can be -- and we saw him take four pitches -- I felt like it was time to make a move. Unfortunately it didn’t work out.
Added Farrell: "Franklin walks a guy and then he hits a guy after the base hit. Two outs, up around 20 pitches or so, and just the uncertainty of strikes. Seemingly in that quick span, he seemed to lose his release point."
Here are some more things we learned in the shadow of McCovey Cove.
A TOUGH DECISION FOR VICTORINO
Earlier in the night, Shane Victorino witnessed a first. Brandon Belt's fourth-inning blast actually looked as though it had cleared the right-field wall at AT&T Park, only to veer back into the field of play thanks to an unworldly wind.
"I've never seen anything like that before," the Red Sox outfielder said.
Four innings later, Victorino was forced to witness another wind-aided aberration.
With the Red Sox leading by a run with one out in the eighth inning and Scutaro standing at third, Tazawa allowed a deep fly ball into the right-field corner. The ball was seemingly hugging the foul line, leaving Victorino helpless as to whether or not it would be landing fair or foul.
The Buster Posey fly ball ultimately would slide just into foul territory, where Victorino hauled it in only to find himself a bit too deep to prevent Scutaro from scoring the game-tying run.
The play opened an immediate debate: Should Victorino have let the ball drop in foul ground, banking on Tazawa retiring Posey and keeping the tying run at third?
"When I ran over to catch the ball, I knew the situation and I thought about it, before the play even, actually," Victorino said. "You think about these scenarios. When the ball was hit it was actually foul and it pushed back into play. Now if I let that fall, is it going to end up fair? Will I look like a fool? When the ball was hit I went over there to catch it and I said to myself, 'Hopefully I can get off a good throw.' I tried the best I could. I didn't get the out. But I don't ever want to look back at that moment when it's going on and say, 'Darn, I should have let that ball fall.' Yeah, after the play was done with he scores and I can think about those type of situations and think about if the scenario comes up again. But in that situation I have no intention of letting that ball fall.
"If it's a 2-2 ballgame it might be a little different. I'll let that ball fall and hopefully we get a double play. Two-to-one, I know who's at the plate, I've seen him come up with big hits before, he's not an MVP for no reason, he's won two World Series. All those kind of things. I gave him credit. I'm not going to let that ball fall and turn into something worse."
Eighteen times this season Posey has been put in such a situation, with one out and an man on third. Prior to the Tazawa at-bat, he had gone 4-for-13 with a walk, three strikeouts and nine RBIs. Tuesday he added one more run batted in.
The play was eerily similar to one on Aug. 28, 2010, at Tropicana Field. In that instance, then-Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew raced over toward Matt Joyce's fly ball in foul ground. He caught it, allowing the game-tying run to score in what would eventually result in a Rays win.
After that game, Drew said, "I really don't know how I caught the thing. It's kind of amazing to me. If I tried to make that play in a situation with two outs and the game on the line, I probably wouldn't be able to get to it. For some reason, the thing stuck in my glove. I had every intention of letting the ball drop. Just instinct. Put the glove out right at the last second and it ended up in there."
This time, Victorino had different motives.
"Any time I approach the wall, even after the play was done, I thought about maybe catching it off to my glove side and spinning and throwing," he said. "But again, approaching the wall, there’s not much room for me to kind of maneuver myself that way. Obviously I went over there to catch the ball, no intent to do anything else.
"I’m sure everyone was going to ask that same question. I thought about it, too. I really did, after the play was done and I threw the ball, Scutaro crossed and I said to myself, shucks, should I have let that fall? I look at it this way, if I had let that fall, now he goes up there and hits the ball in the gap. That’s the kind of stuff where I always sit back and look at and I say, you know, you can always second guess it or you can think differently after the play was done, but when I was on the move over there, I told myself to catch the ball and try to get in the best position I could to make a throw. I had no second guess while the play was going on. After the play was done, I thought about it and I even asked [Dustin] Pedroia after the inning, should I have let the ball fall, and he said it might have been close. It might have ended up fair, and I said OK. But you know, those are all the kind of scenarios that pop through your head. But I had no intentions at all of doing that."
Victorino did have his moment in the sun earlier in the game. The switch-hitter managed just his second career home run as a right-handed hitter against a right-handed pitcher, taking Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong over the left-field wall for a solo shot in the fourth. The other came when he batted righty against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Sept. 24, 2010.
BOGAERTS' BIG DAY
It was one of the most anticipated debuts a Red Sox rookie has had in years. So, what was the verdict regarding Xander Bogaerts' introduction into Major League Baseball? There will be plenty of better days.
The 20-year-old shortstop highlighted his night by making a fine play in the field to end the fifth inning on Scutaro's slow grounder. But other than that, the night was fairly uneventful.
Bogaerts would finish his first big league game going 0-for-3 with a strikeout, stranding five runners on base.
No matter. For Bogaerts it was about getting that initial introduction.
"I can’t describe it, definitely something I’ve been waiting for my whole career," he said. "Great feeling to be out there with all the big guys."
Somewhat surprisingly, one of Bogaerts' most valuable learning experiences this season proved to be his short stint playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. The environment of participating in the MLB-sponsored event served him well in front of Tuesday night's sellout crowd.
"I didn’t expect that I’d be so relaxed," he said. "Maybe that’s why the WBC had an effect on that, being in front of a big crowd and stuff, everyone against you, so I would say probably that helped."
While the Red Sox will face three more lefties on the current road trip -- starting with Wednesday's starter for the Giants, Barry Zito -- Stephen Drew still figures to get the brunt of playing time at shortstop over Bogaerts. Drew entered Tuesday night's tilt during a double switch in the sixth inning.
"X did a tremendous job out there tonight," Peavy said. "He acted like he belonged. He had some good at-bats. … So many different things that you're watching over the course of a game that can hugely affect the outcome. But X, he's going to be fine. Great player."
SOME FRUSTRATION FOR PEAVY
Since arriving with the Red Sox, the pitcher has delivered. In all but one of his four starts with the Sox, Peavy has allowed two earned runs or less. This time, he gave up one run on five hits over 5 1/3 innings.
But when he strolled out of AT&T Park an hour after the Giants made it official, the statistics couldn't take the pain of the night off his face.
The first bit of frustration came when Peavy twisted his left ankle early in the game, leading to a visit from Farrell and members of the Sox medical staff. The ailment was caused after the pitcher's front foot fell into a hole dug out by Vogelsong, San Francisco's starter.
But the brief discomfort paled in comparison to the frustration he felt upon being taken out with one out in the sixth inning. Upon watching Farrell stroll toward him, moments before he would be told his night was done, Peavy was visibly upset over the fact he was being yanked.
It proved to be the right move, with Peavy sitting at 92 pitches and potential tying run at second with two outs. Breslow came on to get a weak groundout off the bat of Brandon Crawford to end the sixth, prior to pitching a 1-2-3 seventh.
"Yeah, you don't ever like to come out of a game," Peavy said. "It was tough coming out. But that's the way the game goes. That's the move John thought was the right move at the time. So be it."
A NEW MASK FOR ROSS
David Ross saw his first playing time with the Red Sox since June 14, and the catcher had a new look.
For the first time since 2001, Ross used a traditional catcher's mask instead of the hockey goalie-type of equipment he had donned for the majority of his professional career.
"It felt weird," said Ross, who doubled in his return to the lineup. "It was mostly different when picking balls up because I'm not used to flipping off my mask, which you have to do with this one when looking down."
While the medical personnel who have overseen Ross' recovery from a pair of concussions said there is no proof the traditional mask is better at preventing the kind of head trauma previously experienced by Ross, there are still some questions.
"We would just rather be safe than sorry," he explained.