Rapid Reaction: Angels 7, Red Sox 3

August, 22, 2012

BOSTON -- Despairing that this Red Sox season has been drained of whatever drama is left with six weeks still to go?

We're here to disabuse you of that notion.

The tension is only now beginning to build as the Red Sox, 7-3 losers to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night in Fenway Park, remain just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the race to avoid last place in the American League East, with six games still to be played against their Canadian cousins. And the Blue Jays on Friday are expecting the return of slugger Jose Bautista, who has been out since July 16 with a sprained left wrist. Bautista has been out as long as David Ortiz, who has yet to be green-lighted to return, although he put on another impressive display of batting practice before Wednesday's loss.

The Sox haven't finished last in 20 years. They went 73-89 in 1992 under Butch Hobson, despite a staff ERA of 3.58 that ranked second in the league. See? It's not always the pitching. The Sox were next to last in runs scored, although there were signs of a brighter future, as Mo Vaughn played his first full season and a Seton Hall teammate named John Valentin also debuted.

For the 2012 Red Sox, the pitchers have taken the most heat, and Wednesday night was no exception, as Clay Buchholz gave up a dozen hits, matching a career high, and seven runs, matching a season worst, in 5 1/3 innings of work. Buchholz has been far and away the team's best pitcher, posting a 2.19 ERA in his previous dozen starts dating to the end of May, and had gone at least six innings in all 12 of those starts.

But against Angels ace Jered Weaver, Buchholz spotted the Angels a 4-0 lead, gave up a home run to Howie Kendrick in the sixth, and left after singles by Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar. Both those runners scored on Torii Hunter's two-run single off Junichi Tazawa.

The Sox scored a couple in the fourth on back-to-back RBI doubles by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles, and added an unearned run in the eighth, but they could not avoid scoring three runs or fewer for the 18th time since Ortiz went down with a strained Achilles tendon. The Sox are now 13-21 without the big lug. They have yet to win a series in August; this will be their fifth series loss, and they split four games with the Indians, who were coming off an 11-game losing streak.

The Sox will spend back-to-back weekends in September playing the Jays -- Sept. 7-9 in the Fens, Sept. 14-16 in Rogers Centre. The Jays have won seven of their 12 previous outings, and the Sox will be challenged by a schedule in which they must play 13 of their final 18 games on the road.

How best to gird themselves for the stern task ahead? Well, Thursday afternoon, the entire organization will assemble for team photos. Smiles all around!

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com



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