Beckett, Sox can't hold off Rangers
Righty runs into trouble in fourth; Boston bats fall silent late
BOSTON -- The Red Sox's pitching and hitting flatlined against the Rangers at the same time on Saturday night, with predictable consequences. Boston lost for the fourth time in five games, 5-4, after the bats fell short of bailing out a shaky Josh Beckett in his bid for a Major League-leading 12th win.
For three innings, things proceeded according to plan for the Red Sox. Boston jumped on Texas starter Robinson Tejeda early, with two first-inning runs on RBIs by David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, and a second-inning two-run homer by Kevin Youkilis. Meanwhile, Beckett had no trouble handling the Rangers in his first tour through the order. The Red Sox coasted into the fourth inning with a 4-0 advantage.
"And all of a sudden," manager Terry Francona said, "it seemed like every pitch [Beckett] missed with, missed right over the middle of the plate."
Texas evaporated the Boston lead with a four-run fourth that all but knocked Beckett from the game. The Rangers rapped out six hits in the inning, five singles and a two-run Brad Wilkerson double to dead center, converting a prolonged rally into a 4-4 tie.
"I started missing over the plate to good hitters," Beckett said. "That's what they do when you leave the ball over the middle of the plate."
Mechanically, Beckett remained comfortable. His fastball hovered between 93 and 95 miles per hour.
"It's not anything I can point my finger to," Beckett said. "It just comes down to poor execution. That's about it."
The Red Sox didn't answer the rally, despite starting the bottom of the inning with a leadoff walk by Youkilis. Ortiz struck out on a hit-and-run play, which ended badly when Youkilis was caught stealing. In the fifth, Boston could not bring home J.D. Drew after his leadoff double; with two outs in the sixth, Ortiz struck out again with the fans on their feet.
Suddenly unable to score, the Red Sox ceded the lead. The Rangers weren't finished just yet. In the top of the fifth, Sammy Sosa powered a line shot into the first row of the Green Monster seats for the 602nd homer of his career, giving Texas the decisive 5-4 lead.
"Left it over the middle," Beckett said of the pitch to Sosa.
Despite the struggles of the Red Sox ace, Boston managed just two hits after the four-run Texas fourth. Rallies continued to end before they began.
In perhaps the game's most glaringly premature mistake, with Fenway buzzing after an eighth-inning Dustin Pedroia double to the wall, pinch-runner Julio Lugo was caught trying to steal third standing, ending the inning with Youkilis at the plate. The caught stealing was Lugo's first in 21 chances this year.
The play was a "surprise" to the Red Sox bench, Francona said.
"[It's] probably a case of a player trying to do too much," Francona said, "and maybe trying to do something that's not there. Obviously we'd like Youk to swing the bat there."
Meanwhile, the Red Sox kept it close with four innings of shutout ball by a typically dominant bullpen. And rookie Jacoby Ellsbury earned an electric first Major League hit by burning down the line on a routine grounder in his second at-bat.
On Saturday night, nevertheless, Red Sox highlights were few and far between.
"It's a frustrating game," Francona said. "You have a chance to put them away early, and we didn't."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.