9th inning a microcosm of how these Red Sox are off base

Rob Bradford
May 23, 2014 - 10:22 pm
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When you lose eight straight -- which is exactly what the Red Sox have done after dropping a 1-0 decision to the Rays Friday night -- there are plenty of lowlights. But perhaps at no time during the losing skid has there been a better example of the Sox' current misfortune that what was bottled in one, ninth inning. There was bad execution, bad luck, and another bad injury. It was (and has been) just plain bad. "I have nothing to say," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz on his way out of the visitors clubhouse. "We stink." (It should be noted the DH was offering his analysis in a good-natured, half-kidding manner.) It started promising for the Red Sox, with A.J. Pierzynski singling to kick off the frame Juan Carlos Oviedo. Next up was Shane Victorino, who had struggled all night on the way to going hitless in his first three at-bats. But Victorino, one of the team's better bunters, atoned for his previous at-bats with what appeared to be a well-executed sacrifice on the third base side. Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria charged in, grabbed the ball on its third hop, and fired to second base. Not only did the throw beat the slow-footed Pierzynski to second, but making the play seemed even more ineffectual was that the catcher didn't bother sliding, instead simply running through the bag and toward the cut the outfield. "Longo's one of the best third basemen. I think it was a one-hopper right to him," Pierzynski said. "It was tough. I'm not fast. I'll get the best jump I can, I was going as hard as I can. There's nothing I can do. He just made a nice play, threw it right on the money. If it's a little bit off, we've got first and second, maybe first and third. That's why he's won a couple of Gold Gloves and is a pretty darned good player over there." The Sox catcher added, "We talk about scouting reports on bunts. We know Longo's very aggressive and he's going to try to go after the lead runner. You've got to make a perfect bunt. Vic made a good bunt, but it wasn't perfect. And unfortunately, the one thing I'm not blessed with is a lot of speed. I did the best I could. I had a big lead, got a big jump, good secondary. Unfortunately it just didn't work out." When asked about not sliding, Pierzynski said, "I was just trying to get there as fast I could. If I slide, I thought I was going slower. Running, I was just going to stop when I hit the base. If I slide or not, I'm out either way. People can whatever, but at the end of the day, I'm out if I slide or not. I was trying to get there as fast as I could, but unfortunately he made a great play." The play also led to second-guessing as to why Farrell didn't choose to pinch-run for Pierzynski, a move that would have surely resulted in Victorino's bunt ending up as a successful sacrifice. After the game, the manager was asked both about his catcher's decision not to slide into second, and the choice to leave Pierzynski on the basepaths. "I don't know why he didn't slide. I think he assumed that the throw was going to beat him," Farrell said. "Didn't think about, didn't want to pinch-run there just knowing that we may need [Jonathan] Herrera in another situation. But even when they were crashing in on the first sacrifice attempt by Vic, he went to more of a decoy approach with more of a base-hit type approach to have them hold their ground. Unfortunately, Longoria makes a good throw to second base ... I thought it was a decent break, but unfortunately the throw beat him to second." Things only got worse for the Red Sox from there when Victorino, who missed the majority of April after injuring his right hamstring on the last day of spring training, fell victim to the ailment once again. This time the outfielder was forced from the game after pulling up lame when returning to first base on an Oviedo pickoff throw, resulting in Farrell and trainer Rick Jameyson escorting the injured player off the field. "He strained the right hamstring," Farrell explained. "Preliminary, or at least the first exam, doesn't appear to be as severe as spring training, but we'll get a better read on it once a full workup is done [Saturday] when he gets to the park." With Jonny Gomes in as a pinch-runner, the Red Sox went quietly the rest of the way with Grady Sizemore popping out and pinch-hitter Mike Carp hitting into an inning-ending ground out. The Rays, conversely, didn't waste their ninth-inning opportunity. After Andrew Miller induced a James Loney pop-up, the lefty issued a free pass to the speedy Desmond Jennings. With one out, the one runner on, and two righties coming up after pinch-hitter Cole Figueroa, on came Burke Badenhop. With Figueroa at the plate, the Red Sox and Badenhop guessed correctly, pitching out while Jennings attempted his 10th stolen base of the season. But the combination of great jump, and an off-the-mark throw from Pierzynski gave Tampa Bay a runner in scoring position with just the one out. "One thing about Jennings is he can fly," Pierzynski said. "It takes a lot of perfection to get him. We guessed right and Burke pitched out and he just beat it. There's nothing else you can do. We did everything right. He made a good pitchout. I made a good throw, and he was safe. There's nothing you can do in that situation. Sometimes guys can just fly. "It was a little bit high, but I think it's the first pitchout we've thrown all year. It's not like we've had a lot of practice at it. I thought it was fine. Jennings can just outrun the ball sometimes when he gets going. It's not Burke's fault, at all." Then came the final pitch -- an elevated fastball from the sinker-balling Badenhop. "I think I came back and made the pitch to Figueroa and fights it off," the reliever explained. "The ball's probably a little bit up, but if it was a little more down maybe it's just a little flare. He fought it off and hit it to where we didn't have anybody playing. We were swung around completely the other way." Just a little bit off. To date, that's your 2014 Boston Red Sox.

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