Dice-K, Red Sox drop wild game
Bay's homer not enough to offset record six wild pitches
MINNEAPOLIS -- Poor George Kottaras.
The Red Sox's backup catcher -- who plays a position that comes with as much anonymity as any on a team -- was behind the plate on Wednesday as Boston tied a modern-day record with six wild pitches. When Kottaras wasn't chasing balls to the backstop, he was getting run over by Carlos Gomez in a train-wreck collision at home in the seventh (the backstop held onto the ball), throwing the ball into center field trying to stop a stolen-base attempt, or striking out to end the game against All-Star closer Joe Nathan.
It wasn't a successful night for any member of the Red Sox in the 4-2 loss to the Twins at the Metrodome. But it was difficult not to feel for Kottaras, who said after the game that he felt like he'd been in a fight.
"Yeah, but that's just part of the gig," Kottaras said. "After a game you should be exhausted. I'm going to leave it all on the field and do whatever I can to help the team win. We just didn't come out on top tonight."
Kottaras was catching starter Daisuke Matsuzaka for the first time in a regular-season game. Matsuzaka tied a team record -- set by Milt Gaston on Sept. 14, 1929 -- with four wild pitches.
"I think sometimes you need a lot of experience to see how you are going to pitch in certain situations to certain hitters, and there were cases out there today that our signs didn't match up all the time or our timing didn't match up," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "All that comes from experience. I think I needed to take more of a leadership role out there with respect to working with Kottaras today."
Relievers Manny Delcarmen and Justin Masterson each had one wild pitch.
"George's Canadian background came into play there," manager Terry Francona said. "He looked like a goalie at times. There were a lot of balls bouncing, guys moving up or potentially moving up."
Kottaras set the record straight: "I never played hockey, but I watched a lot growing up."
The wild pitches, ironically, didn't have a huge impact on the game. None led directly to runs and only one even led indirectly to a run. Delcarmen's wild pitch in the sixth moved Denard Span to third and Joe Mauer to second. At that point, the Red Sox decided to intentionally walk Jason Kubel. Masterson was called in to relieve Delcarmen and hit the first batter he faced, Michael Cuddyer, forcing in a run.
Matsuzaka needed 102 pitches to get through five innings. He allowed three earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out six.
"In those situations where I needed to get ahead and get quick outs, I wasn't able to do that and I wasn't able to challenge the batters as quickly as I wanted to, and I think that led to a high pitch count today," Matsuzaka said.
Kevin Youkilis' sacrifice fly to center against Minnesota starter Kevin Slowey scored the game's first run in the third.
The Twins answered in the bottom half of the inning. Matsuzaka couldn't spear a bouncer up the middle by Span, deflecting it into the middle of the infield. Span advanced to third during the next at-bat when Kottaras airmailed a throw into center field trying to catch Span stealing second. Span scored on Mauer's sacrifice fly to left.
Consecutive doubles to right by Justin Morneau and Kubel scored another run. Brendan Harris singled in the inning's third run.
Jason Bay's solo homer in the sixth pulled Boston within a run.
"It was a slider over the plate," Bay said of his 14th homer of the year. "I was looking for something I could drive."
Delcarmen relieved Matsuzaka in the sixth and loaded the bases via two singles and an intentional walk. Francona summoned Masterson to try to get out of the jam. Masterson hit Cuddyer with the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
"It was a sinker that kept veering into his leg, which isn't exactly where I wanted it to go," Masterson said. "It took us from 3-2 -- a little more hope -- to 4-2, which there is some hope there, but two runs is a little more than one."
Said Francona: "I think I put Masterson in a tough spot. You second-guess a lot of things on a night like tonight."
Kottaras saved a run in the next inning. With Gomez on third base, Nick Punto grounded to second. Dustin Pedroia went home with the ball, setting up a violent collision. Kottaras hung on as Gomez barreled through his body.
"I was blocking the plate and waiting for the throw, and as soon as I got the throw, he had nowhere else to go except through me," Kottaras said. "That's part of the game."
Jacoby Ellsbury was one of the lone bright spots for Boston, extending his hit streak to 22 games by going 2-for-4.
Thor Nystrom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.