Thursday, July 03, 2008
The last time the Red Sox were 3.5 games out of first in the AL East was the end of the 2006 season. But after last night's 7-6 disappointment in St. Petersburg, that's exactly where the Sox are.
Daisuke pitched around trouble for 5 innings. Although he only allowed 1 run, his pitch count was obscenely high. In the first two innings, he had already thrown 49. This forced the bullpen to be used early. Okajima pitched a scoreless 6th, then all hell broke loose.
Manny Delcarmen looked awful. Not only was he giving up hits (3 hits to 3 batters faced), his stutter step off the mound allowed Akinori Iwamura to reach on an infield single instead of being thrown out at first.
Then Hansen came in and couldn't throw a strike. He threw 13 pitches, 4 of which were strikes. And one of those strikes was struck by Evan Longoria for a double. Finally, Javier Lopez worked out of the jam, but the damage had been done. A 4-1 Sox lead had been turned into a 7-4 Rays lead.
The Sox didn't go down quietly. Pedroia had an RBI double in the 8th (stopping at first with a single would have given him a cycle). Thanks to an error, the Sox put two men on with no outs in the 9th. A sac-fly from Youkilis made it a 7-6 game. Then Terry Francona made me mad for the first time in his managerial stint with the Red Sox.
Why in the name of all that is holy was there a hit and run with Varitek at the plate? He was 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts, and hadn't gotten a hit in 16 at-bats. In those 16 at-bats, he's struck out 8 times. HITTING is the most important part of the hit-and-run. But Varitek isn't hitting. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th in a 1 run game, it makes more sense to bunt than hit-and-run. Why risk making the 2nd or 3rd out on the basepaths? Why ask a slumping hitter to make contact, something he's struggled to do. And why the hell is Varitek batting 7th and not 9th?
Not surprisingly, Varitek swung and missed at a bad pitch, and Mike Lowell was toast at second base. When Varitek struck out looking, the game was over.
This Varitek slump is unreal. He's 3 for his last 48 (.063). There is no reason for him to be batting anywhere but 9th, if at all. Brandon Moss and Julio Lugo aren't tearing the cover off the ball, but at least they can get a hit every once and awhile.
The Sox ride their 5 game losing streak to Yankee Stadium for a 4 game seris. Lester faces Andy "I Didn't Inject" Pettitte.
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara