Beckett's fourth inning does him in

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Beckett's fourth inning does him in

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON There havent been many times this season Red Sox manager Terry Francona has had to get a reliever warming up in the bullpen early in a Josh Beckett start. But, thats what he had to do Thursday afternoon in the fourth inning of the finale of the four-game series with the Royals at Fenway Park, calling upon left-hander Randy Williams.

Beckett cruised through the Royals lineup, facing the minimum number of batters through the first three innings. He recorded at least one strikeout in each of those frames, with two in the third, and appeared comfortably on his way to his fourth win in his last five outings.

But Beckett, with a two-run lead, faced as many batters nine -- in the fourth as he had up to that point in the game. The Royals batted around in the fourth, the first team to do so against Beckett since the Yankees in the sixth inning on May 2, 2010.

He opened the inning with consecutive walks to Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier before giving up a three-run homer to Billy Butler to straightaway center field. After retiring Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur reached on a two-base error by Drew Sutton in left field (originally ruled a double, changed after the game). Then Mike Moustakas double to right scored Francouer for the fourth run. Beckett gave up a single to Matt Treanor before retiring Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar to get out of the inning.

With four runs allowed in the inning, Beckett gave up as many as he had in his previous 23 innings pitched, going back to July 8 against the Orioles.

Beckett took the loss, his first at Fenway this season, as the Sox fell, 4-3, to the Royals, splitting the series against the American League Centrals last-place team. He went seven innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. Only that post-game scoring change turning what was Francouers fourth-inning double into a two-base error by Sutton salvaged a quality start for Beckett, his 15th in 20 outings.

I thought he was in great control, Francona said. He was efficient, didn't have a high-pitch inning at all. But that one inning, that was kind of out of character. I think it was a 38-pitch inning. Walked two guys in a row, which I dont know, thats probably happened, but I dont remember it. And then he gets ahead of Butler and actually the pitch was down. It just kind of wandered over too much of the plate. But it was not a bad pitch. Just a good hitter. That was enough. They held on.

"It was uncharacteristic that he lost two guys. Sometimes its a little bit of everything. Hes ahead of butler. The ball's down. A good hitter came up at the wrong time. Then we get a fly ball to Sutt Drew Sutton. Tough play but we dont get the out. It kind of extends, makes him work harder. Sometimes it happens. But it was a long inning, long enough to the point where we thought he could keep getting guys out. But we start worrying about him. So, you got to get somebody up."

It was the most runs Beckett has allowed at home this season and the most at home since giving up four to Toronto on Sept. 18, 2010. It was Becketts first loss in a month, since falling in Philadelphia on June 28, and his first loss in nine career starts against the Royals, snapping a five-game winning streak against them.

Thats a pretty good lineup, said catcher Jason Varitek. They swing the bats pretty well.

He wasnt missing by much. Its not like he all of a sudden got wild. Just, we couldnt put either one of Gordon or Maier in the fourth away. But we were just missing, too.

Beckett threw 109 pitches, 72 for strikes. After the fourth inning, he faced just two batters above the minimum, on a Mike Moustakas sixth-inning walk, and a single by Chris Getz leading off the seventh.

The difference between the fourth inning and the others?

They werent hitting balls at guys, Beckett said. With the exception of Butlers ball. He hit that one at that guy sitting up in the stands. Got a couple of hits on balls outer-half instead of the corners. Bad pitches.

The Sox had given Beckett a lead in the third inning, when Jacoby Ellsburys two-run single to right scored Jason Varitek and Yamaico Navarro.

Pretty darn frustrating when your team scores two runs and then you walk the first two guys, Beckett said. Yeah, thats pretty frustrating.

The problem?

Command, Beckett said. Fastball command, breaking ball command, changeup command. I was just kind of all over the place.

I had anormal warm-up. And everything like that. As the game went on it got worse and worse.

Sometimes you make good pitches and they get hit. Sometimes you make bad pitches and they hit them at guys. And thats kind of the story of today, with the exception of one inning.

For the Royals, thats all they needed.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.