Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call

Notes: Lowrie, Francona baffled by ump's safe call
August 14, 2011, 7:55 pm
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By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE Jed Lowrie admitted that he was more stunned than angry when it first happened in the third inning, and he was still searching for answers postgame on a bizarre call that earned him his 12th fielding error of the season.

The play helped open the floodgates in a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field that saddled the Sox with their first series loss during the regular season since dropping two-out-of-three to the Philadelphia Phillies from June 28-30.

Lowrie wasnt very excited about second base umpire Ed Hickoxs call that typified the tough luck weekend in Seattle for the Sox, and it all started with a leadoff walk and a pair of singles that forced one run in against Tim Wakefield.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, it appeared Lowrie executed the pivot on an Ichiro Suzuki groundball that ended with a force play on Kyle Seager at second base. The switch-hitting shortstop attempted to follow on with a throw to Wakefield covering first base for the double play, but the knuckleballer couldnt beat the motoring Suzuki to first base.

But Hickox ruled Lowrie was off the bag on the force, and the shortstop was charged with his 12th error of the season in the flurry of activity following the play.

The safe call on Seager loaded the bases with nobody out and helped lead to three Seattle runs crossing the plate, and touched off a peeved Lowrie after the game was all over.

After watching some of the replays and knowing I touched the base, I dont know. It sucks. Its bad. Its a bad situation, said Lowrie. It probably cost us a couple of runs, but theres nothing I can do about it now. Its the same thing I do every time: I kick the back of the base and then I step out of the way of the runner.

Sox manager Terry Francona freely admitted that his team didnt do enough to win on Sunday, but he also questioned how Hickox makes that kind of call when every TV replay showed it to be an extremely close play while the umpire relayed to the manager that it wasnt even close.

Francona protested the call a bit, but seemed to reel it in a little after his histrionics got the Sox skipper tossed from Saturday nights game after he protested a call at home plate that the umps ultimately got right.

I really thought he grazed the bag. But it doesnt matter what I think, said Terry Francona. I think you have to be pretty sure on that one if youre going to make a call like that. After you look at the replay, I dont know how he can be sure.

Either way the Sox had six innings to reclaim the lead and dig out from under the three run deficit caused by the third inning of errors and discontent, but they just werent able to do it against a Mariners team that seems to be gathering a little momentum.

Instead they were left with the losers lament of complaining about an umpires blown call once the game was decided.

Jonathan Papelbon ended the weekend having converted each of his last 22 save opportunities dating back to May 13, the longest stretch of his career and the second-longest save streak in the American League behind Jose Valverde and his 35 straight saves.

Sox manager Terry Francona continues to employ Darnell McDonald against left-handed pitching in something of a strict right field platoon with lefty-swinging rookie Josh Reddick, but it may be time to see if Reddick can handle full-time duty against pitchers of either persuasion. Reddick is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with a home run in very limited at bats against southpaws while McDonald ending the weekend with a .176 batting average and is struggling in a major way offensively. Combine that with the difficulty Mike Aviles has shown attempting to track down fly balls in the outfield, and its an idea worth exploring.

Dustin Pedroia doesnt get to hit there very often, but the numbers are off the charts when the Sox second baseman bats in the cleanup spot throughout his career. Customarily the No. 2 hitter in Bostons lineup, Pedroia has hit safely in all 10 career starts in the cleanup position and is hitting .500 (22-for-44) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs and 11 RBI in those 10 games. More importantly the Red Sox are also 8-2 in those 10 games and are 5-1 in six games with Pedroia in the No. 4 hole this season.

Kevin Youkilis said that his lower back is still feeling tight after he returned to the Sox starting lineup on Sunday afternoon, and slammed his 17th home run of the season in the loss. Youkilis missed two games with a stiff back that first cropped up during the Minnesota series. The infielder indicated that his back felt better than it had the previous two games, but that he was also ready to get back into the lineup after watching his teammates fall on Saturday night. Youkilis said the day off on Monday should help things considerably and that hed be ready to play against the Rays at Fenway on Tuesday.

Clay Buchholz is about half-way through the progression from a stress fracture in his back, and he said on Sunday morning that hes hoping to start throwing a baseball again in the first or second week of September.

The timetable means Buchholz wont be able to build up arm strength in minor league rehab assignments as their seasons end in early September. But that doesnt necessarily rule out a return in some form or fashion.

The right-hander said he still hasnt discussed a potential role in the bullpen for the postseason if time runs out to build up his arm up for a potential starting role. He said that should be something on the agenda for discussion once a throwing program has begun.

Ill do whatever they want me to do whether its starting or relieving, or whatever, said Buchholz. Im just glad the core strengthening exercises are working, and Im starting to feel like my back is healing.

Buchholz hasnt pitched since a five inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 16 that earned him his sixth win of the season, and any setbacks at all would likely spell the end of the season for the lithe righty.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.