Wakefield watches 'pen blow chance for 200, 9-4

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Wakefield watches 'pen blow chance for 200, 9-4

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY The fifth time was far from the charm for Tim Wakefield and his trusty knuckleball in the pitchers personal quest for 200 career wins.

Wakefield was once again denied in his attempt to become the only active 200 game-winner in the big leagues despite carrying a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning, and instead helplessly watched a complete bullpen meltdown lead to a 9-4 drubbing at the hands of the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Wakefield was cruising into the sixth frame with six hits and only a single run allowed to Kansas City, but the Royals started punishing the 45-year-old twirler once he neared the 90-pitch range. After a Billy Butler strikeout to start the frame Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francouer and Mike Moustakas each tagged Wakefield for a hit and closed it to a one-run game with Wakefields milestone and a three-game Sox winning streak on the line.

Terry Francona pulled Wakefield from the game and instead called on a struggling Matt Albers, who imploded on the Kansas City mound after showing plenty of signs of struggle over the last few weeks. Albers recorded only one out and allowed four runs on three hits and a pair of walks while doing a fascinating impersonation of a batting practice pitcher as his ERA ballooned to 3.71 for the season.

Albers is sporting a bloated 11.25 ERA in seven appearances and eight innings pitched during the month of August, and appears in danger of falling out of favor in the Sox bullpen.

The big blow was an Alex Gordon double to left-center field that ripped things open for the Royals, and it was much too late by the time Franklin Morales entered the game for the Sox.

The disastrous eight-run sixth inning tied for their worst of the season wiped out solid offensive performances from the bottom third of the lineup and the first two-hit game and Major League RBI for rookie Ryan Lavarnway.

Player of the Game: Alex Gordon has been a thorn in Bostons side all season, and that continued on Saturday night with a game-high three hits, two doubles and 2 RBI during the great Wakefieldbullpen implosion of 2011. Not only is Gordon really breaking through to another level of baseball stardom in Kansas City, but hes turned into a certified Red Sox killer while hitting .360 (31-for-86) with 15 extra base hits and 15 RBI and an OPS over 1.000 in 24 career games against Boston.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Lavarnway picked up a couple of hits and his first Major League RBI in defeat, and has displayed some pretty mature approaches at the plate over the last couple of games. It appears that the designated hittercatcherright-handed bat is going to be able to help out the Sox while they wait for some of their injured players to return to the fold.

The Goat: Matt Albers walked one of the most wildly free-swinging hitters in the Major Leagues, Salvador Perez, upon entering a jam in the sixth inning while protecting a one-run lead, and he threw gasoline on the fire from there. Albers finished with four runs and three hits allowed in 13 of an inning and took the loss in one of Bostons worst innings this season. Albers has an 11.25 ERA in seven games during the month of August, and it might be time for Sox manager Terry Francona to give Dan Wheeler a look in that bullpen role directly behind Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.

Turning Point: Tim Wakefield had the game well in hand with a 4-1 lead heading into the sixth inning and got one out very quickly, but he couldnt get through the sixth to protect his 200th career win. Once the Royals put up two quick runs on Wakefield and dug into the Sox bullpen, the game was essentially over and Wakefields search for 200 career wins reached at least six games.

By the Numbers: 10 the number of scoreless games in a row that Dan Wheeler has tossed for the Red Sox while pitching his best baseball of the season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: Im not frustrated. It hasnt happened in the last five starts. Im trying to treat it like its a normal start, and Im just trying to give us quality innings and quality starts. I had a bad sixth inning. Tim Wakefield, who appeared the picture of frustration after his chances for his 200th career win fell apart in the sixth inning.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.