OAKLAND -- In case you missed it ...
At approximately 2:30 a.m. (EST) Red Sox reliever Javy Lopez faced off with Oakland's Travis Buck with the bases loaded in the 12th inning of a 5-5 game at the Oakland Coliseum.
The left-hand hitting Buck pounded the ball into the ground, sending the ball high into the air, over Lopez and toward the hitter's former college teammate at Arizona State, Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia ran in, gathered in the grounder, and flipped it over to first baseman Kevin Youkilis, but only after the semi-speedy Buck had crossed first base.
Pinch-runner Rajai Davis scored on the play, ending the 4-hour, 24-minute contest in a 6-5 Oakland win, handing the Sox a record (2-6) the franchise has endured only twice in the past 43 years.
It was a cruel way to end a fine performance for the Red Sox bulllpen, which pitched 10 2/3 scoreless innings after Daisuke Matsuzaka's five-run, first-inning disaster.
"(Buck) chopped the ball really high, I got to it as fast as I could and got rid of it as fast as I could," Pedroia said. "He runs well and it didn't really help he was left-handed. He beat it out.
"I thought he looked out at the time and then I checked it on tape and it looked like he beat it. It was one of those things where the ball was hit too high."
So many things to talk about, yet only five things to learn. Here they are ..
1) JUSTIN MASTERSON IS JUST FLAT-OUT A PITCHER
The reliever (who may soon be a starter if Daisuke Matsuzka's "shoulder fatigue" doesn't heal) came on in the second inning, pitched four frames, and left with his team still in the game. That alone would have been impressive. But how he did it made it even more spectacular.
After Matsuzaka's one inning of work, Masterson threw one fewer strike (42) in his four innings of work than the Sox starter tossed pitches. There were just two hits, six strikeouts, and nary a walk.
"They had said they weren't totally sure what Dice would have, so be ready," Masterson said. "I think we're always kind of ready to go. They hinted to me I'd be first off."
2) THE REST OF THE BULLPEN WASN'T BAD, EITHER
The Red Sox' bullpen came into Tuesday night having surrendered 11 runs in 18 2/3 innings. It had totaled 14 strikeouts during that span.
In this one game the group didn't give up a run in 10 2/3 innings, allowed one run on six hits while striking out 13.
After their fourth appearance each, Manny Delcarmen (1 2/3 innings) and Ramon Ramirez (1 1/3 innings) haven't given up a run in a combined 10 innings.
Hideki Okajima also rallied to turn in two innings of shutout ball in which he didn't allow a hit. He had allowed a Vladimir Guerrero solo shot in his most recent appearance, and had only managed one scoreless outing of his three.
Jonathan Papelbon rebounded from his 39-pitch outing Saturday to turn in a scoreless inning, and was followed by Lopez, who was pitching in his third straight game.
3) PATIENCE IS STILL A PROBLEM
Prior to Tuesday night's game, Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan attempted to explain a major part of his team's offensive woes -- patience.
“I don’t know if we’re pressing. I think we’re getting outside of what our strength is as a team," he said. "We were talking about it today. We’re swinging at a lot of pitcher’s pitches early in the count. They might be strikes, but they’re not really pitches we can drive. I think we went a period of time where we hit some balls hard with runners in scoring position and had nothing to show for it. But that transformed into kind of getting outside our strength which is being patient. I don’t mind getting a swing early in the count as long as it’s a pitch we can drive. But we’re getting a lot of weak outs on the first and second pitch. That’s been what we have been getting away from.
“You’re down 1-0 or 2-0 and guys are trying to make it up in one swing of the bat. There’s a fine line between being aggressive and helping the pitcher out. That’s kind of what we’re doing now. We’re facing guys who really aren’t strikeout pitchers and it’s almost like we’re swinging at pitches where we don’t want to get behind in the count."
J.D. Drew had been the biggest culprit when it came to the Sox' impatience, averaging just 2.95 pitches per plate appearance after managing a career-high 4.16 last season. This time around Drew appeared to do a much better job of identifying his proper pitch, notching three hits while seeing 30 pitches in his six at-bats.
An instance where the patience problem reared its head was in the 10th inning when the Red Sox found themselves with the bases loaded, two outs, and David Ortiz at the plate. Hitting against the A's soft-throwing closer, Dusty Ziegler, the Sox DH watched the count go to 2-0 before swinging at an 83 mph "fastball" on the outside edge. The result was an inning-ending pop out to second base.
When it was all said and done, the Red Sox stranded 14 baserunners and still hadn't scored more than five runs in any game this year.
4) JOSH BECKETT IS NOT HAPPY
Josh Beckett discovered he had been suspended for the first time in his career at approximately 9 a.m. (PST). At about 9:05 a.m. the shock started to wear off and the reality set in.
After talking to his agent, Michael Moye, and the Red Sox brass, Beckett made the decision to appeal the six-game suspension handed down by MLB's Bob Watson. It was the first time Watson and Beckett had butted heads since the league's disciplinarian fined him $1,000 after a shouting match with Cleveland's Kenny Lofton in Game 5 of the 2007 American League Championship Series.
This time the punishment came thanks to a fastball thrown by Beckett Sunday afternoon in Anaheim after the Angels' Bobby Abreu called time. The pitch just missed the hitter's head. After some words between the two, benches cleared and four Angels were ejected. But not Beckett.
In fact, the Red Sox starter was told twice by umpire Paul Schrieber, and once by crew chief Joe West, that he had handled himself well.
"The appeal," Beckett said, "kind of speaks for everything that we feel."
A bit later he summed up the feeling of everybody involved from the Red Sox perspective.
"We were all pretty shocked about it," Beckett noted.
The statement from Major League Baseball stated that Beckett was being suspended for both the pitch and his subsequent actions. Angels manager Mike Sciosca had also criticized the Sox hurler for the latter, saying that Beckett showed no "remorse" for his actions.
To this Beckett responded, “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Am I supposed to give (Abreu) a hug? I wasn’t really in a hugging mood.”
Brad Penny, who played with Beckett for five seasons with the Marlins, said he has never seen his teammate be accused of such an act, and insists that he shouldn't have been this time, either.
"He told me he honestly didn't mean to hit him, and, believe me, if anything like that was going on he would have told me," Penny said. "I don't know how you can get suspended for doing that. He didn't hit anybody. He didn't say anything. Someone said something to him first. He was pretty calm. I was out there with him the whole time. How do you get fined or suspended when you weren't even ejected? It doesn't make sense to me. I know a couple of the umpires said he didn't do anything wrong."
As for how the appeal will unfold ... Beckett appeals the suspension through the player’s union. Major League Baseball and the union schedule a hearing. The union and player present their side, followed by MLB (Bob Watson and others) presenting its side. MLB Executive Vice President John McHale acts as the arbitrator and decides whether to uphold, reduce, or eliminate the suspension. Beckett can drop the appeal anytime before the hearing and begin serving the suspension.
5) THE WBC IS OFF THE RED SOX' CHRISTMAS CARD LIST
Matsuzaka is worn out. People are pointing fingers.