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Closing time: Red Sox falter in 9th en route to loss to Angels

08.19.14 at 10:40 pm ET
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Mookie Betts' center field defense appeared as a work-in-progress on Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Mookie Betts’ center field defense appeared as a work in progress on Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

The Red Sox fought their way back from an early two-run deficit on Tuesday night, but they were unable to shut the door on the Angels. Closer Koji Uehara took his third loss of the season as the bottom of the Angels order pushed across a run in the top of the ninth and Los Angeles defeated the Red Sox by a 4-3 score.

It feels unusual for the Red Sox closer to give up a run in any game, but Uehara has been touched for runs in each of his last two outings, both times allowing two hits in an inning of work. The pair of hits the 39-year-old allowed Tuesday were no cheap shots, either.

The Red Sox may have missed Jackie Bradley Jr.’s spectacular defensive capabilities on Tuesday night. Brennan Boesch reached base with two out in the ninth on a long fly to the deepest part of the park, as center fielder Mookie Betts pulled up and the ball bounced in the triangle, hopping up into the stands for a ground rule double. The next batter, Chris Iannetta, drove him in with a double off the scoreboard in left that Daniel Nava made a solid bid on.

Uehara has appeared in 10 of the Red Sox’ last 17 games, racking up an even 10 innings of work. The strikeout numbers have dipped slightly for Uehara as of late; he’s averaging under one per inning since the beginning of August, while he’s averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings on the season as a whole. With the increased workload, Uehara’s decrease in strikeouts could be a result of fatigue.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

 Betts had an interesting night in center field. He certainly still looks like a player who is learning the intricacies of playing the outfield, and his inexperience showed a few times on Tuesday. Betts’ poor read and ill-timed dive on a fly ball off the bat of David Freese resulted in what should have been a catchable ball turning into a triple. He also made an off-line throw into the infield that missed the second baseman and shortstop entirely, as it was backed up by the pitcher. At the same time, he did move smoothly and directly to some balls that were hit behind him.

Will Middlebrooks was having a nice game (he made a diving play at third that initially resulted in an out at first, but was overturned later), but the oft-injured third baseman came up lame beating out an infield grounder for a base hit and was removed from the game a batter later with what the Sox described as tightness in his right hamstring.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

— Starter Allen Webster came through with his third straight quality start on Tuesday night, lasting six innings and allowing three earned runs on seven hits.

The wheels seemed likely to blow off in the third inning for Webster. It took him 34 pitches to get through the inning, as he allowed a triple, double and pair of singles as well as hitting a batter on the way to a three-run yield. But a double play with runners on first and third helped Webster limit the damage, and for the second straight start, Webster contained the damage to that one inning, reeling the game back in and not permitting another run.

(The third inning has been troublesome for Webster throughout his stint in the majors this season; in five starts, Webster’€™s ERA in the third frame is 25.71, allowing a total of 12 earned runs. Batters are hitting an even .500 against Webster in the third.)

He’s shown the ability to make in-game adjustments and settle down before this year, and he did it again. After the third, Webster allowed just one hit, a triple to center that was misplayed in the outfield. He again got better as the game wore on, with his best inning coming in the sixth when he retired the side using just eight pitches.

While Webster struggled with fastball command, with 24 of his 55 heaters missing the zone, he had his changeup working. Of the 12 swings and misses the righty got on the night, eight of them came on the change while another three came on his slider. Webster threw 99 pitches on the evening with 61 of those going for strikes, with another solid outing that kept him in the conversation for a potential starting job with the Sox beyond 2014.

— David Ortiz had a big night, going 2-for-3 with a home run, walk and single. Ortiz took a Jered Weaver change on the outer half of the plate into the Green Monster seats, going to the opposite field with both of his hits on the evening. The home run ties Ortiz with Chris Carter of the Astros for third-most in the American League, while he leads the majors with 92 RBIs.

With his solo home run off of Weaver in the first, Ortiz has now driven in 11 runs against the starter, which is tied with Ian Kinsler for the most off of the righty. While Kinsler has knocked in 11 in 91 plate appearances, Ortiz has done it in almost half of that time, with only 49 plate appearances against Weaver.

Alex Wilson tossed two perfect innings in relief of Webster, sending the heart of a powerful Angels order down in order. The righty has allowed just one run and five hits in 7 2/3 innings since being recalled from Pawtucket.

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