You won't find too many games this season that will leave the majority of the Red Sox as frustrated as they found themselves while leaving the Fenway Park premises in the waning minutes of Thursday.
Sure, Florida starter Ricky Nolasco was good, allowing just one hit over five innings.
And finishing off their night with just the one hit -- a first-inning, solo home run by Kevin Youkilis -- wasn't easily digested.
But when the Sox' series finale with the Marlins came to an end when crew chief Jerry Crawford informed both teams that the game would be ending after five innings -- and a 2-hour, 26-minute rain delay -- giving the Marlins a 2-1 victory, that's when the uneasiness set in.
"We were told it was going to rain all day. There was nothing we were told or saw on the radar that suggested we were going to be playing in any type of good conditions," said Sox' third baseman Mike Lowell. "I don't know. I don't know if the gates worked that one. I don't."
The go-ahead to start the game was in the hands of the Red Sox' organization, although once the lineup cards are handed over at home plate the umpires take over in the decision-making process.
In an email, MLB's Vice President of Umpiring Mike Port clarified the situation: "If a game has not begun, the home club controls the decision whether to postpone the game because of unsiutable weather conditions or the conditions of the playing field. Once a game begins, weather and field condition decisions are in the hands of the umpires.
Starting with games after the All-Star break, during the final series of the season between two clubs in the home park of either club---even if a game has not yet started---the umpires are the sole authority to determine whether or not a game shall be started because of poor weather or the unfit conditions of the playing field."
Clearly, the anger from the Red Sox' side of things was a result of it getting to the point where those cards were exchanged.
"I think a lot of guys are (expletive) pissed right now. Absolutely. Without a doubt," Lowell said. "We were talking make-up dates. Monday, Thursday. We're going to play 21 (days) in a row. That's why I don't know if the gate's worth it. I don't know. There's a lot of guys, I'm one them."
When the game started just after 7 p.m., the weather was cooperating, with the rain having stopped for the time being. But the uncertainty of what was to transpire in the coming hours had left many of the Red Sox in a state of flux.
One of those who may have been thrown off by the green light to play was Sox' starter Jon Lester, whose warm-up routine appeared to be somewhat thrown off.
Two innings in and the Sox found themselves in a 2-1 hole after Lester surrendered solo homers to Dan Uggla and Ronny Paulino.
"I think it was a difficult night. Things were rushed," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona of his hurler. "(Lester) was even a few minutes late getting ready just because it was difficult for him getting ready. I didn't think he commanded very well. Saying that, he left two pitches, one he tried to go in, one he tried to go away, they hit them out of the ballpark and other than that he found a way to still give us a chance to win. I think that says a lot. I think it was a tough night. It was a difficult night. Their guy (Nolasco) was fantastic, he did the same thing. You could tell (Lester) wasn't commanding like he has been."
As for the procedure leading up to game-time, there seemed to be some confusion. Representing the Red Sox' players in the matter were the team's player representative, Lester, and assistant player rep, Dustin Pedroia.
"I heard a lot of different things," Lowell said. "I heard because its' the last day of series, the visiting team has a say on the day. Just from my experience, though, with the Marlins when we had that hurricane, there's open communication between both teams, the players' union and all of that. You can make exceptions for anything.
"What we saw on the radar was 100 percent chance of rain, basically from 7:30 on. I don't know. But to hurry a game to get it an hour, 20-minute window when the conditions weren't that great to start. That's tough. I don't know why it wouldn't be that bad to make it up at the end of the year... I'm frustrated, and I think a lot of guys are frustrated."
Later, the third baseman would continue to let his feelings on the matter be known.
"We were told it was going to rain hard and then in an hour or hour-and-a-half, maybe, maybe not let up," he said. "I don't think you ever want to lose a rain-shortened game, especially when nothing looked positive going into it."
NOT THE SAME, BUT STILL PRETTY GOOD
After the game, John Smoltz was asked what he sees when he watches Lester.
"A dominant left-handed pitcher," the 42-year-old said. "As good as they come."
Thursday night wasn't the kind of devastating outing that Lester had turned in during his previous three starts, but it offered an example of just how good the pitcher has become.
Even without his best stuff, and the discomfort stemming from the uneven pre-game routine, Lester allowed just the two runs while not walking a batter and striking out four in his five innings. Not bad.
But while the lefty battled the Marlins, he was also fending off expectations.
Up until the two solo shots in the second Lester hadn't given up a home run in his last three starts, a stretch that saw him surrender just three runs in 22 innings, striking out 34. In fact, the the six baserunners he allowed in the initial three innings against the Marlins matched the most allowed in any of his trio of starts.
But even though some of the image was the same, with Lester's cutter helping get eight groundouts compared to two fly-outs, the 114 pitches in just the five frames wasn't the pitch efficiency the Sox hurler had become accustomed to.
"It's hard to make a full evaluation," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "[Lester] made a couple of mistakes early, and they hit two solo home runs. He definitely didn't get into the great rhythm that he's been able to get into [lately], but you never know."
And by the way, if the game had resumed, Lester would have been replaced by reliever Justin Masterson.
WHERE DID THIS GUY COME FROM?
Nolasco has shown in the past he can be good. There is a reason, after all, he was the Marlins' Opening Day starter. But when a guy comes in carrying a 7.62 ERA after 11 starts, few expect him to walk off the mound having allowed just a single hit.
Unlike Lester, the righty lived and died through the air, with eight of his 10 outs coming through the air, a few falling just short of the left and center field walls. And when Youkilis deposited a 94 mph fastball over the left field wall for his fourth homer of the month, it looked like there might be more of the same as the night progressed.
But, in the end, that would be the lone hit of the night against a pitcher who hadn't given up fewer than seven hits in just two of his outings this year.
The hope for the Red Sox was that even though Nolasco had totaled just 74 pitches through five innings, the rain delay would allow the Sox to get into a middle-of-the-road Florida bullpen.
"It's the nature, but yeah, it sure is," said Francona in response the question of whether or not it was frustrating not playing nine innings. "Especially the way their guy's throwing and you know he can't come back. But that's the way it is. There's always that danger and I'm sure we've been on an end of it where it helps us, but sure it's frustrating."
There had been signs that Nolasco was trending back toward becoming the pitcher that finished with a 3.52 ERA and 15 wins in 212 1/3 innings last year. In his last start, against Toronto, the 26-year-old allowed just two runs over six innings, and the appearance before that saw him give up three runs in seven frames.
"When I faced him he was more of a fastball-curveball guy and now he's throwing more fastball-sliders, which makes it a little tougher," said Bay. "I felt he was using his slider a lot more than I had seen, and based on his last start, which we saw, he's starting to throw the ball well."
ELLSBURY IS FAST
Guess what? Jacoby Ellsbury stole another base, his 29th of the season.
It marked the fifth straight game he has had at least one steal, marking the first time a Red Sox player had managed such a stretch since Ben Chapman's five-game run in 1937.
For the month of June the Red Sox' center fielder has eight steals, the second-most during that span (behind only Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton). But perhaps even more important, Ellsbury is getting on base to attempt those steals.
In June he leads the Red Sox with a .442 on-base percentage, including a .556 OBP against what had been his nemesis, left-handers. Overall, Ellsbury is hitting .349 for the month, best of the Sox' regulars.
He even almost served as the catalyst for a game-tying run in what proved to be the last inning, stealing second with two outs in the with, but...
THE CAPTAIN'S OFFENSE HAS TAKEN A DOWNTURN
With Ellsbury in scoring position and two outs in the fifth, and a downpour hinting that there might not be another chance for the Red Sox, Varitek fanned on a slider from Nolasco to end the threat.
Varitek is now just one for his last 21, and is now hitting .167 for the month to dip his average down to .224.
After going 0 for 2 against Nolasco, the catcher also continued to see his success against right-handers take a hit. In his last 10 games he is just 3 for 22 (.136) hitting left-handed. Varitek is now hitting .213 from the left side this season.
He did, however, continue his solid play behind the plate, managing the seventh-best catcher's ERA in the majors at 3.94.