We kept trading leads back and forth until we were locked in a tie into the eighth innings. We handed the ball to Bard. You think you know a guy.
Lackey pitched decently. He wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t abysmal. Actually, I think those adjectives are too far apart on the spectrum to paint an accurate picture of what his outing was like. Really, he wasn’t great, but he wasn’t terrible. That’s more like it. His outing can be considered yet another step in the right direction.
He pitched six and two-thirds innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, walked none, and struck out five. He threw 106 pitches, seventy-four for strikes. He mixed his pitches, got aggressive, and attacked the zone. His fastballs were not great; thankfully that was his least frequent pitch. The good news is that the effectiveness of his pitches strike-wise increased with the frequency at which he threw them. He threw changeups for strikes about sixty percent of the time, curveballs about sixty-three, sliders about sixty-seven, and cutters, his most abundant pitch, about eighty-six. He must have taken a page from Lester’s book because his cutter was downright nasty.
Three of his innings were one-two-three. His best inning was obviously the second, during which he threw only nine pitches. The first two runs he allowed were scored by small ball, and the last three were scored by two consecutive home runs, the first for two runs and the second a solo shot. He was pulled after having secured the first two outs but allowing a single in the seventh.
Morales came on and finished the seventh. Bard took the ball in the eighth. But instead of being his usual self, his scoreless inning streak snapped. He allowed a single and gave up a home run. Actually, at first Asdrubal Cabrera and his teammates were the only ones who thought he hit it out. The ball bounced off the wall in right, and everyone else, including first base umpire Todd Tichenor, thought that the ball was still in play. Manny Acta called for a review, and something happened that seems to never occur when we need it most and always occur when we need it least: the ruling on the field was overturned, and Cabrera was sent home. That brought in two runs.
Bard induced a groundout after that but then issued an eleven-pitch walk. In an absurd twist of fate, it was Randy Williams who had to take the ball from Bard. He hadn’t given up a run in twenty-six and one-third innings in more than twenty-five appearances dating back to May 27. It was the longest active streak and the longest by any AL pitcher. All he had to do was pitch one more scoreless frame, and he would have tied Bob Stanley’s string of twenty-seven and one-third innings in 1980. The game was tied when he came in. He walked away the loser, literally.
Williams gave up another run. Albers took the ball from Williams and gave up a solo shot in the ninth.
We ended up losing.
In the second, Salty doubled, moved to third on a single by Reddick, and scored on a single by Scutaro. I guess Reddick had a feeling that he was going to make a throwing error in the next inning and wanted to compensate in advance. Technically, though, his throwing error didn’t matter because, while it resulted in a runner advancing to third and later scoring, that runner would have scored anyway because the scoring play was a double.
In the third, Gonzalez singled and scored on a triple by Youk. The throw back into the infield ended up sailing wide of third, and Youk tried to score also but was thrown out at home. A groundout by Papi later, Crawford homered into the bullpen on a hanging cut fastball. It gave you an indication of what we should and hopefully will be seeing from him on a regular basis. And at the time, it gave us a 3-1 lead.
Three innings later, Crawford doubles, and Salty who homered to right, this one on a changeup. He even broke his bat on contact. At the time, it tied the score at five apiece.
In the bottom of the ninth, Mike Aviles singled, moved to second on defensive indifference, and scored on a double by Ellsbury. But there were two outs in the inning already, and Pedroia ended the game when he grounded out.
I hope this has given you a sense of the epic frustration that was last night’s three-hour, eleven-minute contest. Here’s the saddest part. Each team collected thirteen hits. The Tribe went three for seven with runners in scoring position and left four on base; we went four for eight with runners in scoring position and left five on base. And yet we lost, 9-6, to the Tribe. Bard failing with the entire game on the line? Papi hitless in the last two games? Reddick, Gonzalez, and Ellsbury held to one hit each? Reddick also messing up in the field and on the base paths? (He got caught in a rundown between third and home in the second inning. Seriously, who does that?) A ruling overturned in the opposition’s favor? It was the stuff of legend, and I don’t mean that in a good way at all. We’re now only one game up on the Yankees. We’re playing them in a series starting on Friday. The implications and importance of this are obvious.
Buchholz will likely be out for the rest of the season. Apparently it’s not just a strain anymore; it’s a set of stress fractures. Between the seeking of a third opinion and the acquisition of Bedard, I think we all knew that the chances of him returning this year, while technically present, are slim. Bedard, by the way, is making his Boston debut on Thursday. Can you imagine? It will be his first time ever pitching in a pennant race.