Soggy night makes for long night
Red Sox's early lead evaporates during KC's six-run sixth
KANSAS CITY -- It was a soggy mess out there on Monday night at Kaufman Stadium, but the elements didn't bother the Red Sox nearly as much an in-game implosion by the bullpen that turned what once appeared to be a sure win into a 12-9 defeat to the Royals.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who continues to gut it out with a bad back, was hardly sharp (five innings, five hits, four earned runs, seven walks and two strikeouts) in his first start since Sept. 5. Still, he left in possession of a 9-5 lead.
The Royals then erupted for six runs in the bottom of the sixth, doing their damage against the heavily struggling Manny Delcarmen and rookie flamethrower Daniel Bard.
The Red Sox's magic number for clinching a postseason berth remained at seven, as they lead the Rangers by seven games in the American League Wild Card standings. Thanks to New York losing in Anaheim, Boston is still five back in the AL East and four in the loss column.
For sure, the Red Sox felt they lost an opportunity to reduce their magic number and inch even closer to the Yankees. It was a game Boston had led by scores of 6-0 and 8-2, and that's why Wakefield wasn't interested in the bullpen taking the blame for the loss.
"It's brutal," said Wakefield. "I gave the game away. Bottom line."
With a loose fragment in his back that makes walking without a limp a chore, nobody would begrudge Wakefield if he opted for season-ending surgery. But he has no designs on shutting it down or on using the weather or the long layoff as a reason for Monday's subpar performance.
"Again, I'm not going to make excuses," said Wakefield. "I had plenty of time to work it out on the side, and I didn't do it tonight."
Once Wakefield exited, it all fell apart.
Josh Anderson led off in what proved to be a nightmarish bottom of the sixth inning for the Red Sox with a double, and Billy Butler clocked a two-out RBI double to trim the deficit to three runs.
Mike Jacobs walked and Alberto Callaspo smacked a two-run double, and the Royals were within one. That was all for Delcarmen, who has an ERA of 21.60 over six outings in September.
"Manny comes in -- in a clean inning," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's a chance to hopefully bounce back. He throws a 2-2 changeup for a double and gets a strikeout and an out and can't convert the third out. He leaves the last fastball for the double. We go to Bard probably earlier than we want to. And he can't get out of it as quickly as we wanted to, so it kind of got the ball running. Obviously, it was a real tough inning."
Bard walked Miguel Olivo, gave up a game-tying RBI double to Alex Gordon that just fell in down the right-field line and a two-run single off the bat of Yuniesky Betancourt that gave Kansas City its first lead of the night at 11-9. The loss wound up going to Bard.
"It's tough when they get on a roll," said Bard. "Hitting is kind of contagious, and that's kind of what happened there. They put some good at-bats together, but for me, I had two chances to put guys away and didn't execute a pitch."
The Red Sox had bolted to a 6-0 lead with a six-spot of their own in the third, led by a three-run homer by Jason Bay (career-high No. 36), a two-run single by Jacoby Ellsbury and an RBI single from Dustin Pedroia.
The Red Sox increased their edge to 8-2 in the fifth on a two-run single by Victor Martinez, who, earlier in the game, extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games.
In those mid-innings, the rain which came down the entire game, was at its hardest. Perhaps the Red Sox even had visions of taking a rain-shortened victory once the game became official after five. But just as the rain started to lighten a bit, the Royals came storming back.
"I think it was getting tough," said Francona. "It's one of those nights. They kept putting the stuff on the field, and you just kept playing. I don't think that's why we lost."
The scoreboard stayed busy throughout this one. In the bottom of the fifth, Jacobs clocked a three-run homer against Wakefield, and it was suddenly an 8-5 game.
"I made a bad pitch to Jacobs that got them back in the game and then we lost it," said Wakefield.
The Red Sox made it a four-run game again when Bay scored on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth. On this night, however, no lead was safe for the visitors.
Bad weather? The Red Sox couldn't control that. They were more upset about the bad result.
"That [weather] has no bearing on the outcome, win or lose," said Bay. "Both teams are going through it. It was one of those things -- it was almost the atmosphere that you were trying to get five in because there was impending doom coming. Like I said, both teams deal with it. It's not the end of the world. It was a little muddy out there, but not the first time."
Because of what Wakefield has gone through -- having three cortisone shots over the past couple of months -- the Red Sox hoped to reward him with a victory.
"Gutsy performance again," said Bay. "Obviously, you can tell Wake is not 100 percent out there, no question. He still wants to go out there and help out as much as he can. Given the circumstances and the runs we put up, I think that he did an admirable job and did enough to warrant a win."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.