Though the Red Sox salvaged the finale of a day-night doubleheader with a victory over Baltimore, the September stench remains.
Monday served as a microcosm of Boston’s struggles this month.
In the day-night doubleheader opener, rookie right-hander Kyle Weiland allowed six runs (five earned) and five hits in 4.2 innings in a game Boston lost, 6-5. Weiland, who has four plus pitches in his arsenal, projects as a late-inning reliever long term in the majors. He is ideally suited for a relief role right now. That Terry Francona continues to start Weiland instead of Alfredo Aceves is headscratching.
In the nightcap, John Lackey delivered another stinker. He served up eight runs and 11 hits in 4.1 innings. The Red Sox withstood yet another atrocious start from Lackey by pounding out an 18-9 win.
Now 5-14 in September, the 88-66 Red Sox have a two-game lead in the wild card race over Tampa Bay, which opens a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.
Though Weiland – who retired the first seven batters he faced but then allowed two in the third, three in the fourth and one in the fifth before exiting – was ineffective, the Red Sox had opportunities to score more than they did.
A blown call that turned a David Ortiz double into a foul ball contributed to the Game One loss. In the fifth inning – with Dustin Pedroia on third, two outs and the Orioles holding a 6-4 lead – Ortiz belted a line drive off Jeremy Guthrie that bounced around in the right field corner. First base umpire Mike Estabrook ruled it a foul ball, though replays showed it was clearly fair. Since the ball was not high enough to be a potential home run, the play was not reviewable.
Instead of a 6-5 deficit with Ortiz on second, it was a foul ball. Moments later, Ortiz hit a deep drive to center field that was corraled by Matt Angle for an inning-ending fly out.
Weiland, who was pitching on three days rest after throwing 61 pitches against the Rays last Thursday, looked sharp retiring the side in order the first two innings. He was victimized by shoddy defense from left fielder Darnell McDonald in the third.
McDonald, who got the start because Carl Crawford was scratched with a stiff neck, lost Nolan Reimold’s liner for a base hit. Josh Bell followed with another fly ball to McDonald, who dropped the ball. Angle then stepped to the plate and ripped a double off the Green Monster for a 2-0 Orioles lead.
McDonald did contribute a solo home run in the bottom of the third.
The Red Sox bullpen picked up Weiland and kept the team in the game. Left-hander Felix Doubront tossed 1.1 scoreless innings while Aceves logged three scoreless frames.
Boston trimmed the deficit to 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez. The Sox were retired in order in the eighth and ninth.
In the nightcap, Lackey was roughed up for three runs in the top of the first inning, but the Red Sox responded with four runs in the bottom of the frame, the big hit coming on a three-run home run by Jed Lowrie, who returned to the lineup after missing another stretch because of shoulder issues.
In the second, the Sox tacked on two runs after an RBI double by Marco Scutaro and a run-scoring single from Dustin Pedroia. Boston grabbed an 11-5 advantage with five more runs in the third courtesy of RBI singles by McDonald, Scutaro, Pedroia and Ortiz along with an RBI double by Ellsbury.
Baltimore made it interesting, though, by knocking around Lackey. An RBI single by Robert Andino with one out in the fifth trimmed Boston’s lead to 11-8 and chased Lackey. Scott Atchison entered and induced an inning-ending double polay on one pitch.
The Orioles actually pulled within 11-9 in the sixth on Vladimir Guerrero’s RBI double off Franklin Morales. Guerrero was easily thrown out at third trying to stretch his hit into a triple.
That was a key play since the Red Sox tagged the Baltimore bullpen again in the seventh. Ellsbury opened the inning with a fly ball to deep center field that bounced around, allowing him to circle the bases with an inside the park home run.
It was Boston’s first inside the park home run since 2007. Surprisingly, that one was hit by Kevin Youkilis.
Lowrie’s two-run single and a grand slam by Conor Jackson off Brad Bergesen capped off the seven-run seventh inning to turn an 11-9 contest into an 18-9 laugher.
Up two games in the wild card standings with eight games left, the Red Sox desperately need wins. On Tuesday, former Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard returns to the mound after missing a stretch because of a strained lat. Baltimore will start right-hander Rick VandenHurk (0-0, 6.00 ERA). In the series finale on Wednesday, Josh Beckett (13-5, 2.50 ERA) opposes right-hander Tommy Hunter (3-3, 5.31 ERA).