For Bard, an unwelcome wake-up call
Lead-changing homers in Bronx make stellar run a memory
NEW YORK -- Following a near-perfect stretch in his rookie season, Daniel Bard has hit some speed bumps.
After retiring Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter to open the eighth inning on Sunday night, Bard served up back-to-back homers to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, coughing up a one-run lead in the Red Sox's 5-2 loss to the Yankees in New York -- Boston's sixth consecutive defeat.
"The worst thing you can do is get two quick outs, then walk a guy, fall behind," Bard said. "I was just trying, on the 1-0 [pitch] to Damon, to stay in the count, so I attacked him with another fastball, and I didn't get back in the count."
On Tuesday against the Rays, Bard gave up a game-tying home run in the eighth inning to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. That snapped a 12-outing, 13-inning scoreless streak for Bard that also included 23 strikeouts.
With the Red Sox one out away from handing closer Jonathan Papelbon a lead of at least one run in the ninth inning, manager Terry Francona let the right-handed Bard pitch to the left-handed Damon with lefty Hideki Okajima and Papelbon up in the bullpen.
Four pitches later, Boston trailed, 3-2.
"He pitched Matsui real well," Francona said. "He made a great pitch on Jeter -- he got the checked swing that was up and in on him for the quick out. Then he got behind Johnny and threw him a fastball that came back over, and in this ballpark, you can tell Johnny feels like he can go out and hook something, which he did. We've seen him do that a lot. Then he left the breaking ball up to Teixeira."
"It's tough because that was a big inning," Bard said. "This was a big game, I think, for our team. My job was to get the ball to Pap with the lead, and I didn't do it."
Bard bounced back from Tuesday's outing to strike out two batters in the ninth inning of Friday's 2-0 loss, which took 15 innings to complete.
"I had a string of a lot of good innings in a row," Bard said. "I knew it was going to come to an end eventually, and what better way to do it then against the Yankees? It's got up and downs. I'm not going to try to change everything. They weren't terrible pitches. They were to two very good hitters who sat on the right pitch at the right time."
"He'll be fine," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said of Bard. "He's got great stuff. They hit two good pitches. The one to Johnny was down. I know he's a low-ball hitter, but he put a good swing on that ball. It happens."
"I think there's a reason we're pitching him in the spots we're pitching him," said Francona, who removed Bard after the righty issued a walk to Alex Rodriguez. "We check in with everybody every day, but I think he'll be OK."
Bard hopes he gets a chance to erase this memory as soon as possible.
"I think it's always good not to let that last one be the one that's stuck in your mind," Bard said. "I'll take the same approach the next outing, and I'm sure the results will be a little better."
With the loss, the second-place Red Sox slipped to 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East.
"A lot of times, the results are out of the pitcher's control," Bard said. "You can be making great pitches and getting hit or making terrible pitches and getting away with them. Sometimes, that's how it rolls. I'll probably be a little more careful with leaving balls down the middle to hitters that are that good."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.