Sox get to Verlander in four-run fourth

832077.jpg

Sox get to Verlander in four-run fourth

BOSTON -- The conditions weren't good for either side on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox took advantage of a wild Justin Verlander, who walked four batters in five innings while allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits in five innings.

He picked up his seventh loss of the season, and that's because he allowed four runs in the bottom of the fourth -- an inning in which he walked in the go-ahead run with bases loaded.

"Verlander was having a little trouble with his control, obviously," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after Boston's 4-1, rain-shortened victory. "But when he threw it over, Cody gets a hit and Salty gets a hit. With bases loaded, you get Ciriaco up there, who just drives in a couple. We got good fortune on the hop from Carl Crawford, but in those conditions, a lot of weird things happen."

Cody Ross led the inning off with a single, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed that up with a single of his own. Following a Will Middlebrooks strikeout, Kelly Shoppach walked to load the bases.

Then, it was Pedro Ciriaco coming through in the clutch once again, as he lined an RBI single to right field, tying the score at 1-1. Then came the Ellsbury walk, giving Boston a 2-1 lead. To top it off Carl Crawford hit a grounder to the right side of the infield that neither Verlander or second baseman Omar Infante could handle, helping the Red Sox score two runs.

It marks the second loss in as many starts for Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, at Fenway this season. In fact, the Tigers have now lost all four of Verlander's starts at Fenway Park since 2010, and six of his 10 starts against the Red Sox.

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

There are still two full months of games left on the schedule and who knows what might happen in that time, or what else might befall the Red Sox.

But for now, it's no stretch to suggest that Thursday's excruciating 2-1 setback in Anaheim constitutes the worst loss of the season to date. The point hardly seems debatable.

Consider:

THE TIMING: This was the start of the longest, and in many ways, most challenging road trip of the season, with 11 games in 11 days. It comes immediately after a homestand that was highly disappointing, featuring a mere split with the last-place Minnesota Twins and a sweep at the hands of the otherwise mediocre Detroit Tigers.

There's been a great deal of attention focused on how many road games the Sox have to play through the rest of the season. Winning the opener -- and snapping a three-game losing streak in the process - would have felt like a strong statement that the club was ready and able to meet the challenges of the schedule.

THE STARTING PITCHER: The loss wiped out a standout performance by David Price, who may well hold the key to whether the Red Sox grab a playoff spot this fall.

Price has been woefully inconsistent in his first season with the Red Sox, alternating between brief stretches of dominance and periods of underwhelming outings.

For a change Thursday night, Price seemed on the verge of winning one of those "statement'' games, when he would make one measly run in the third inning stand up. There have been too many times, given his standing as the team's No. 1 starter, in which Price has pitched just well enough to lose -- like the pitcher's duels in which he came up short against the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Chris Tillman.

But on Thursday, Price didn't buckle. And never mind that he was matched against an aging and depleted Jered Weaver. Price had next-to-nothing with which to work, but he protected the 1-0 lead with a determination he has seldon shown in Boston.

And for his effort to go wasted sets an inauspicious marker for this demanding trip. There was something symbolic about having Price set the tone at the start with a low-scoring, must-have game.

He did his part. Unfortunately for Price, that wasn't enough.

THE WAY IN WHICH IT HAPPENED: Walk-off losses are never pleasant, whether they come on a homer, or a base hit up the middle.

But considering that the Red Sox had the ability to turn Daniel Nava's tapper to first into a game-ending double play, and instead, saw it result in a two-run throwing error on the part of Hanley Ramirez, makes it all the more crushing.

Brad Ziegler, who gave up a go-ahead game-winning homer in the final game of the homestand Wednesday, essentially did his job in the ninth. He got Mike Trout to hit a chopper, which resulted in an infield single. And he kept the ball on the ground and in the infield, with the Sox bringing the infield in with the bases loaded and one out.

Better execution, and the Red Sox walk away with a thrilling 1-0 victory to begin their West Coast trek. Instead, they walk off the field, heads down, with the wrong precedent being set.