Slumping Red Sox fall out of first
Beckett solid, but hitting woes continue to plague Boston
ARLINGTON -- The Red Sox's clubhouse was decidedly quiet following Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Rangers, keeping with the overall theme of a disappointing road trip.
"Not a lot to talk about," whispered Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, who is 0-for-18 since the All-Star break.
With no noise emanating from their slumping bats, the Red Sox fell out of first place in the American League East for the first time since June 8.
After being stifled by the likes of Roy Halladay and Kevin Millwood the previous two games, unheralded rookie Tommy Hunter held down manager Terry Francona's offense in this one.
In the throes of their first four-game losing streak of the season, the Red Sox are hitting .194 in the first five games of this journey through Toronto and Texas, scoring 12 runs.
"We have to do a better job, especially in this ballpark," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "This is an offensive ballpark. We have to score more runs."
Ace Josh Beckett, never one to point fingers, wasn't going to put this one on the offense. The right-hander has high expectations, and he took no consolation from a complete-game loss -- one in which he allowed seven hits and four runs over eight innings.
"I didn't make very good pitches," said Beckett. "This one definitely falls on me. I think the right person got the loss. I think it was lost at about 7:30, in the first inning. Two-out runs, that's demoralizing to everybody, especially to a pitcher. They did it three times to me. That's not good. That's unacceptable."
In truth though, Beckett (11-4, 3.42 ERA) was the only person in the entire clubhouse who thought he was most responsible for the loss.
"I think we've hit our worst spot of the year as a group swinging the bats," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "You run into those spots. We have to continue to go out there and play the game and hopefully turn that around. I think we've all been here before. We're one or two hits away from getting things back together."
These are the type of stretches that leave a hitting coach tossing and turning late at night.
"Tonight was probably the first time we had some at-bats where we were trying to do too much," said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. "I'd like to think it's one of those cyclical things. We've created some opportunities for ourselves, and we haven't gotten that big hit. That's what it's going to take for us to get out of this. Just get that one hit that gets us rolling and take some of the pressure off the offense."
Beckett put Boston in a hole in the bottom of the first. After a leadoff double by Ian Kinsler, Andruw Jones drew what proved to be a pivotal two-out walk. Jones put himself into scoring position by stealing second, setting up Hank Blalock for a two-run single through the hole at second base and into right.
"You can't go out there and give up two runs with two outs in the first inning," said Beckett. "It's demoralizing to a team when your pitcher gives up two two-out runs in the first inning."
Not appearing to be demoralized, David Ortiz led off the top of the second by rifling a single to right. It's just that Ortiz thought it was more than a single, only to be thrown out by several feet trying to stretch it into a double.
"That's trying too hard," Francona said. "He wanted to get to second. I appreciate it, but that's what we want to guard against. We certainly always want to hustle, but I don't want us to start doing things and getting out of our game."
The way the Boston bats have been going on this road trip, the slight deficit seemed more significant than usual. And it played out that way early, as Hunter took a shutout into the sixth.
Pedroia gave the Red Sox some life in that sixth with a two-out single. Kevin Youkilis followed with a double into the gap in right-center, and Pedroia raced home from first to cut it to 2-1. But Ortiz popped up, ending the threat.
"It happens, man. It's not always going to be roses and flowers," said Ortiz. "We go through this every year. There will be a point we'll get out of it. You just have to keep on fighting."
After that slight hiccup in the first, Beckett went on a serious roll, sending down 14 in a row before Michael Young drilled a one-out single in the sixth.
The Rangers added insurance runs in the seventh and eighth to pin the Sox in a three-run hole.
"He was real good," Francona said of Beckett. "A couple of cutters came back over the plate to [Josh] Hamilton and Blalock and it cost us some runs. He pitched eight innings against that lineup. We just -- offensively -- weren't able to get much going and it ends up being too much."
Boston's last gasp came in the ninth, when Jason Bay drew a one-out walk. Bay stole second and scored on a single to right by Mike Lowell. It was too little, too late, however, as Varitek grounded out to third to end the game.
The best the Red Sox can hope for now is a 2-4 road trip.
"I don't think anybody is going to show up tomorrow hoping to score one or two runs," Pedroia said. "We're going to show up tomorrow and try to put good at-bats together and win a baseball game and go back home. That's our goal."
And leave it to the captain to find the silver lining amid the skid.
"We've hit a spot where we haven't been swinging the bats well," Varitek said. "The good thing is that hopefully those days are in front of us. We can't really swing the bats any worse."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.