|Breaking down the key plays in the Red Sox’ Saturday night loss to the Rays||07.15.12 at 12:02 am ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox’ 5-3 loss to the Rays Saturday night was one of those games which had a laundry list of notable decisions and defining plays.
Here are some explanations from the clubhouse after the Sox’ defeat. (For more on what went wrong, and right, in the series’ second game, click here):
MIKE AVILES MISHANDLING JOSE MOLINA’S GROUNDER
With the Red Sox having taken a one-run lead thanks to Will Middlebrooks’ two-run homer in the fourth, the Rays came back in the fifth to got Jeff Keppinger to third with one out in the following frame. With the Sox’ infield playing slightly in, Molina hit a grounder just to the right of Aviles. The shortstop, however, rushed the play a bit, resulting in the ball bouncing off his glove and the Rays tying the game at 2-2 with Desmond Jennings scoring.
“That’s a play I make every time. I should have taken my time,” Aviles said. “If I got him at the plate, I got hima t the plate, or just take the out at first. I knew I had the chance at home, and I rushed it rather than just play the hop. It wasn’t a hard hit ball and it didn’t have Jennings running at third. I knew I had a little bit of time with Keppinger, even though he went on contact. I rushed it. I pretty much blew it.”
CODY ROSS FAKE STEAL OF HOME
With two outs in the sixth inning, and the scored tied at 2-2, Ross found himself at third base with Rays starter David Price on the mound. Price chose to pitch from the wind-up, allowing the Sox’ outfielder to fake a steal of home. The problem came when Price stepped off and targeted picking off Ross at third, with third baseman Jeff Keppinger already standing at third base. But, even with Ross stumbling somewhat back to the bag, Price’s throw sailed over Keppinger’s head, allowing the visitors to take a 3-2 lead.
“It’s a play where you’re trying to get him to balk and he stepped off like he was supposed to,” Ross said. “I got caught in a bad spot, and luckily he threw it away and ended up scoring a big run for us. The heart was pounding a little bit. … It was panic. I looked back and he was standing on the bag. My heart started racing and just tried tackling the bag. Luckily he threw it away.”
CLAY BUCHHOLZ’ TROUBLES IN THE SEVENTH
With Buchholz sitting at just 76 pitches heading into the seventh, the pitcher didn’t think twice when Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine asked him if he was OK to come out for another inning.
But after he walked Luke Scott, hit Jeff Keppinger and proceeded to allow a sacrifice bunt by Jennings, the righty’s outing came to an abrupt end.
“I wouldn’t have told him I felt fine unless I felt fine. I felt good,” Buchholz said. ”I got behind Scott, still trying to find a change-up at that point in the game and I spiked a couple of them. It is what it is, you can’t give up free baserunners to a team like this.”
“Buchholz was really good. He was really good until right at the end there,” Valentine said. “I had questions about sending him out but he didn’t have that many pitches and he said he hadn’t even broken a sweat yet. Then a walk and a hit batter later, you know. But he was very good. Curveball was very good, changeup. Command of his fastball was good. He got some called strike threes, swinging strike threes. He looked good.”
WALKING HIDEKI MATSUI
After Matt Albers came on for Buchholz, Valentine chose to intentionally walk pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui to load the bases to get to Jose Lobaton. The move didn’t pay dividends, as Lobaton worked a run-scoring walk to tie the game, and was followed by Elliot Johnson’s go-ahead sacrifice fly.
Valentine cited Matsui’s history of coming through in the clutch, along with Lobaton’s relative inexperience, as the deciding factor in making the move.
“Just that he’s a pro,” said Valentine when asked what he prioritized when walking Matsui. “Figured I’d take the young guy, get one ground ball and get out of the inning instead of going after a guy who’s made his living driving runs in.”
Matsui had been struggling, hitting .175 while not getting an at-bat since July 5. He entered the game 1-for-4 against Albers.
Valentine also pointed out that, after the Lobaton walk, he didn’t want to bring in Andrew Miller to face the left-handed hitting Johnson due to the concern of having Miller enter the game with the bases-loaded.
PEDRO CIRIACO’S FAILED BUNT ATTEMPT
With the Red Sox trailing by a run in the eighth inning, Jacoby Ellsbury led off the frame with a double. Ciriaco, he of the .500 batting average, decided on his own to try and bunt for a hit. After failing on Price’s first pitch, the second baseman didn’t offer at pitch No. 2. But on the third offering, Ciriaco popped up another bunt attempt just enough to allow Rays’ catcher Molina to haul it in for the inning’s first out. After consecutive fly balls to center field by Ross and Middlebrooks, the threat was over.
“That was never on,” said Valentine. “He was just bunting for a hit. He was just trying to get a hit there. He felt, you know the third baseman has to hang a little because there’s a guy on second, I guess. He was trying to put it down the line. We weren’t playing for a tie there.”
“I was on my own, so I was just trying to get something going or to get a base hit,” Ciriaco explained. “It was a good pitch. I just didn’t do the right thing. I think it was a good opportunity to try to bunt, and that’s what I tried to do.”
RYAN SWEENEY’S HAMSTRING WAS A PROBLEM
The reason Valentine chose not to pinch-hit for Brent Lillibridge in the ninth inning, with one out and the first baseman representing the tying run, was because his best pinch-hitting option, Sweeney, had been hampered by left hamstring tightness.
Lillibridge, who went 1-for-4 while filling in for Adrian Gonzalez, would strike out in the at-bat.
“I had a hamstring tweak yesterday, but I should be back in there tomorrow,” the outfielder explained. “I just felt it the whole game and sometimes it was spasming up on me, so I just wanted to be cautious. I was ready at the end. … I was ready, but I don’t know if he didn’t want to use me because of my leg or whatever. I’m just hoping it will be better tomorrow.”
As for Gonzalez, the medical staff told Valentine the first baseman wasn’t available, needing to rest his sore lower back another day without swinging.
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