Valentine defends slow hook with Morales

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Valentine defends slow hook with Morales

BOSTON -- In the second series of the year, Bobby Valentine regretted staying with a lefty reliever for a critical at-bat and blamed himself for a Red Sox loss to Toronto.

On Wednesday night, history repeated itself, leading to another Red Sox loss.

This time, however, Valentine wasn't second-guessing himself as much.

In the top of the eighth inning with Texas leading the Red Sox 4-2 and the bases loaded, Valentine elected to stay with left-hander Franklin Morales even though the right-handed Mike Napoli was due at the plate.

The move backfired when Napoli blasted a two-run double to deep center, scoring two runs and blowing the game open in a 6-3 victory for the Rangers.

"Morales is a guy I want to pitch against both sides of the plate,'' said Valentine. "I wanted to keep confidence in him. I wasn't going to pull plug too soon. He's had four good outings for us. I was hoping to salvage that one. It didn't work.''

Valentine had two right-handers -- Vicente Padilla and Matt Albers -- warming in the bullpen at the time, which theoretically would have created a better matchup with Napoli, who has a lifetime OPS of .949 against lefties, compared to .843 against righties.

Additonally, Morales has, predictably, been more successful against lefties over his career, with a career .648 OPS against lefty hitters and a .782 OPS when facing righties.

Padilla sat down at one point, leaving Alberts as Valentine's other option.

"I like Matty,'' said Valentine. "Matt's throwing the ball real well now. It's almost like it's six of one and a half-dozen of the other. That's a good thing. Again, I was keeping Franklin in for Franklin, not because of who was up or who wasn't up in the bullpen.''

It's clear that, with Mark Melancon being an early-season disappointment who was sent to the minors to get straightened out, Valentine regards Morales as perhaps his best eighth-inning set-up option.

When the move didn't work out, Valentine was showered with boos when he finally lifted Morales. But he said he understood the fan reaction.

"Sure,'' he said. "I was booing myself. It didn't work out.''