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Closing time: Red Sox betrayed by unsettled bullpen, fielding woes in loss to Tigers

06.23.13 at 4:57 pm ET

The Red Sox endured a day when the unsettled state of their bullpen became painfully apparent in what proved a car wreck of a 7-5 loss to the Tigers.

Charged with protecting a one-run lead for the final four frames, Sox relievers again couldn’t get the job done once starter Felix Doubront departed after an up-and-down five innings.

John Farrell had Junichi Tazawa pitch the sixth, and the righty promptly retired the bottom third of Detroit’s lineup. However, rather than considering a second inning for Tazawa (who threw 16 pitches in his inning of work), in the seventh, Farrell brought the struggling Andrew Bailey into the same sort of high-leverage situation — albeit in a different inning — in which the right-hander has been so ineffective in of late: protecting a late one-run lead.

Bailey, recently displaced from the closer’s role, recorded one out while yielding two hits before Andrew Miller came in. Three batters in, Miller had given up a single to load the bases, struck out a batter and then drilled Jhonny Peralta to force home Bailey’s first runner, Austin Jackson, to knot things at four.

A succession of fielding misfortunes then allowed the Tigers to push ahead with the game-winning runs in the eighth. Daniel Nava appeared to catch a routine fly ball and then lose the handle on it while transferring the ball to his bare hand, but when the ball flopped onto the warning track, the umpiring crew ruled that Nava had dropped it for a leadoff two-base error. The questionable call led not only to the ejection of Sox manager John Farrell but also set in motion the decisive rally of the game.

“Clearly, the call was missed,” Farrell told reporters after the game. “He caught it. he went to transfer to his throwing hand, dropped it at that point. It wasn’€™t like it was a instantaneous movement. He caught it in front of him, took it to his left hip to naturally throw the ball back in. he drops it ‘€“ he rules it a dropped ball obviously. Kind of surprising, seeing it from the dugout. Three other umpires didn’€™t see it either.”

A sac bunt attempt followed, but Miller’s throw to first was wide, and the E1 put runners on the corners with none out. After Miller loaded the bases with a walk, he was lifted; Torii Hunter greeted Alex Wilson — a somewhat surprising option for yet another high-leverage situation, given that Craig Breslow (who is effective against both lefties and righties) was available — with the go-ahead sac fly. After Wilson intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera to load the bases again, but with Breslow in the game, Fielder delivered a two-run single up the middle to break open the game.

It was, in short, three innings of relief chaos, a reminder of the impact that an unsettled bullpen structure can have on a team. What had been shaping up as a potentially impressive statement victory against Justin Verlander and a first-place Tigers team turned into the second devastating bullpen loss in the series.

The Sox lost three of four to the Tigers and are now 5-8 over their last 13 contests. Though the Sox will return from their brief journey to Detroit still in first place in the American League East, the team seems more unsettled and vulnerable than perhaps at any other time this season.


— The Sox bullpen now has 11 blown saves in 24 opportunities, a 54 percent success rate that is second worst in the American League.

— The Red Sox were ineffective, to say the least, when it came to hitting with runners in scoring position: 2-for-14 with 11 runners left on base. In the seventh, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew went down in order after Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Drew failed to hit the ball out of the infield. Pinch-hitter Daniel Nava, who is battling a sore thumb, struck out with Ellsbury on second to end the eighth.

— The Sox were plagued by defensive lapses. The eighth-inning errors by Nava and Miller were at the heart of Detroit’s game-winning rally in the eighth. Meanwhile, Drew’s fourth-inning error — he booted what could have been an inning-ending double play — added three batters and 13 pitches to Doubront’s inning. Doubront had seemingly worked himself into a groove, retiring five of the previous six Detroit batters, before the error. The inning ended when Shane Victorino caught up with Hunter’s fly ball in foul territory to leave the bases loaded.

‘€” Jackson burned the Sox for two more hits and three more walks Sunday afternoon. The center fielder ended his weekend 6-for-11 with three walks in three games against Boston hurlers this weekend.


‘€” Doubront, fresh off his best start as a major leaguer Tuesday, threw five solid (if somewhat inefficient) innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks. He struck out only a pair of Detroit batters in his sixth no-decision in his last nine starts.

The 25-year-old southpaw labored through the first two innings to the tune of all three runs on 58 pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to three of the 11 batters he faced, and two of the six outs came courtesy of back-to-back impressive plays from his defense to end the first. Jose Iglesias made a nifty pick and long throw on Victor Martinez‘ ground ball to third, then Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch to rob Peralta of extra bases with two men on.

After a rough two innings, however, Doubront settled down. Needing only 46 pitches the rest of the way, he recorded 1-2-3 innings in two out of his final three frames.

— A day after Max Scherzer averaged 15 pitches per inning in his seven frames, the Red Sox forced Justin Verlander to throw 112 in his five innings of work. Verlander struggled a bit with his control, throwing 62 percent of his pitches for strikes and issuing three free passes, and the Red Sox touched him up for seven hits and four earned runs, battling back to tie the game in both the second and third innings after Doubront spotted the Tigers a lead.

David Ortiz collected his fifth multi-hit game in seven tries with a 3-for-5 performance. Since his 0-fer exactly one week ago dipped his average below .300, Ortiz is 12 for his last 28 (.429) to raise it 17 points to .316.

— Catching the day game after the night game, Ryan Lavarnway got the scoring started for the Red Sox with an RBI single up the middle to plate Napoli in the second. Lavarnway also drew a walk in the fourth and scored what at the time was the go-ahead run on Shane Victorino‘s groundout, ending his day 1-for-3.

The catcher, getting time with the big league team while David Ross is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion, has collected a hit in each of his two games since getting called up Tuesday. He owns a modest four-game hit streak dating back to May 18.

Read More: David Ross, felix doubront, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonny Gomes
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