04/08/07 1:40 AM ET
Tavarez drops season debut
Right-hander yields four runs on six hits over four innings
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Boston's No. 5 starter doesn't think excuses are a part of baseball. And he didn't have any after a disjointed 8-4 loss that left the Sox in jeopardy of getting swept Sunday night when ace Curt Schilling steps back on the mound following his tough outing on Opening Day.
"There's no tricks in this game," Tavarez said. "When you lose, you can't make excuses."
Tavarez, who was done after four innings and 87 pitches, did have a concrete reason for his performance going southward after a crisp first inning. He just realizes he could have discovered it before it was too late.
"Once you find out, it's sometimes too late," said Tavarez. "You're already in trouble. I watched my video and said, 'What am I doing?' It was too late."
The problem is that Tavarez didn't stick with what worked for him in the first inning.
"I just think I threw so many breaking balls and forgot about my two-seam fastball," Tavarez said. "I was getting some quick outs early in the game and I changed my whole plan."
Tavarez gave up six hits and four runs while walking five and striking out three. As excited as Tavarez was to be returning to the rotation, where he finished so strong last season, he never looked to be in rhythm in this one.
The Sox got RBI singles from Mike Lowell and Julio Lugo over the first two innings to take a 2-0 lead against Kevin Millwood.
After wiggling out of a bases loaded jam in the second, Tavarez got into more trouble in the third. Part of his undoing was a play he had little control over.
Jerry Hairston drew a one-out walk and then Michael Young slammed an opposite-field liner to right that caused all kinds of problems for the Red Sox. The ball went under the glove of J.D. Drew and all the way to the wall. Not only did Hairston score, but Young did a Tour De Force around the bases to tie the game at 2. The Little League style home run was ruled a double and an error.
Drew, one of the stronger right fielders in the game, just had one of those plays were everything went wrong. His aggressiveness betrayed him.
"It was one of those situations where you're hustling over to get there and hold it to a single," Drew said. "I spun, and pivoted to throw before I got the ball. I was between grass and dirt and just came up too early to throw to second and I think it just snuck right under my glove."
Young never stopped running and Drew's relay wasn't anywhere near second baseman Dustin Pedroia or first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
"I instinctually just came up and threw the ball thinking he's got a triple," said Drew. "That's just kind of the player I am. I go a lot on instincts. I know the ball was in the corner and I had a long way to get it. The first thing I was thinking was pick it up, throw it in. I thought Youkilis and [Pedroia] would be more on the first-base line when I let the ball go. I had a good throw behind it but those guys couldn't get back across to cut it off."
The Rangers didn't relent from there, loading the bases and then getting a two-run single to left by Nelson Cruz to give the Rangers their first lead at 4-2. It was a 36-pitch inning for Tavarez, which led to a taxing night for the Boston bullpen.
Still, the Sox showed signs of staying in this one. Drew led off the sixth with a single and Jason Varitek pummeled a line drive over the outstretched glove of Young and into the left-center-field gap. That scored Drew all the way from first to make it 4-3.
But the Boston bullpen, so strong in the first four games, imploded in the bottom of the inning.
With Hairston on third and one out, lefty J.C. Romero came on in relief of Kyle Snyder to face switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira. The result was not what the Sox were looking for, as Teixeira smashed a single to bring home Hairston.
"Once the baserunner got to third, I felt we had to bring in Romero and try to get out of it," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We were down one, we wanted to stay down one and the wheels kind of came off at that point."
In fact, the Red Sox developed a virtual flat tire with one swing from Sammy Sosa, who put an exclamation point on his comeback to the Major Leagues by launching career homer No. 589 over the wall in center. The Rangers sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning and extended their lead to 8-3.
Romero (no batters retired, five hits and three runs) was a victim of poor location.
"This was the first time he's thrown the ball over the middle of the plate and they took some pretty healthy swings," Francona said. "In his defense, we got him up in a hurry. We really didn't want to get to him until we got down to maybe [Hank] Blalock. We just didn't have that luxury tonight."
And nobody felt worse about it than Tavarez.
"[Eighty seven] pitches for four innings is not me. I walked [five] guys and it really hurt," said Tavarez. "My plan wasn't go to 2-2, 3-1 and keep walking guys. I'm the kind of guy who gets quick outs. Once I started walking guys, they started figuring it out a little bit more."
Tavarez is already champing at the bit for the next time he takes the ball -- which figures to be Friday night at home against the Angels.
"I know I'm better than that," said Tavarez. "I'm going to have a better start than that next time."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.