ANAHEIM, Calif. -- While the Dodgers are still struggling in the aftermath of what has come to be known within the industry as the Nick Punto Deal, the Red Sox looked like they were humming along.
And then Alfredo Aceves came back. And when the smoke had cleared in the ninth, the Sox were 6-5 losers to the Los Angeles Angels, with a blown save and loss going to Aceves, just as it had the last time he pitched, in that 14-13 fiasco against L.A.
Before he was suspended for three games for conduct deemed detrimental to the team, Aceves was the Red Sox closer. Tuesday night, he was warming up in the sixth inning, even though Andrew Bailey, the other logical choice to close, was not available.
Demotion? Don’t let appearances deceive you. Turns out Aceves was merely preparing for the main event.
Clay Buchholz worked out of his own jam in the sixth, retiring Erick Aybar on a ground ball with runners on the corners and two runs already in, one on a long home run by Albert Pujols. And he was still on the scene in the seventh, when a bloop single and error by right fielder Ryan Kalish brought up Pujols with the tying run on second. First base was open, but Bobby Valentine gave his ace the option of facing down the future Hall of Famer, and Pujols flied out harmlessly to right.
Aceves finally got the summons in the eighth and breezed, striking out Kendry Morales on a called third strike, and retiring Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick on ground balls to first. But in the ninth, he nicked Erick Aybar with a pitch, and Aybar stole second. He walked pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo, bringing up the Super Natural, as Mike Trout was called on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Aceves got two quick strikes on Trout, then broke his bat with the next pitch, but that wasn’t good enough -- Trout’s soft liner made it through the middle of the infield, tying the score and sending Callaspo to third. Torii Hunter then hit a sacrifice fly, and the Angels, who had swept the Sox in Boston, had made it four in a row against Boston.
"Wasn't much choice," Valentine said of using Aceves in both the eighth and ninth, though he had Junichi Tazawa warming up in the ninth.
Vicente Padilla had pitched in four of the previous five games, as had Bailey. Mark Melancon had pitched in four of the last six.
Trout, meanwhile, became the first rookie and youngest player ever to record 25 home runs and 40 steals in a season, taking Buchholz deep to lead off the Angels' first.
"Great player, one of the best players I’ve seen in a long time," Valentine said of Trout. "But we had him that last time. Two fastballs by him in, broke his bat on a third one."
Buchholz in the rematch: Buchholz was beaten last week by Jered Weaver in Boston, 7-3, as he gave up seven runs on a dozen hits, matching a career high. The Angels got off to a fast start Tuesday, with Trout leading off with a 445-foot home run, Hunter walking, Pujols singling him to third, and Trumbo scoring him on a sacrifice fly. But after Pujols’ single, Buchholz set down 15 of the next 16 batters until Pujols hit his 29th home run with one out in the sixth. The Sox, meanwhile, bunched four singles and a walk to score three in the third, and Jacoby Ellsbury created a run by singling, stealing second, taking third on a wild throw and scoring on a sacrifice fly.
Salty shaker: Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit his 22d home run, to draw within four of Carlton Fisk’s club record for catchers, 26. Rich Gedman hit 24 in 1984, and Fisk (1972) and Jason Varitek (2005) hit 22. All home runs came as catchers. Dustin Pedroia is the only other player in the Sox lineup with at least 10 home runs, with a dozen. Everyone else has two or fewer (James Loney has 4 in the National League).
Ell’s bells: Jacoby Ellsbury had his sixth straight multi-hit game with at least a run scored. That’s something done by only one other big-leaguer this season: Pujols.
Dawn of an era?: Jose Iglesias made his first start of 2012 at shortstop. A jump-start on next season? “I look at this five weeks just to learn something about the big-league experience and try to help the team. Let’s do it. Let’s do it," he said. Iglesias went 0-for-4 and worse, failed to get down a sacrifice bunt after Ryan Kalish led off the ninth with a single. Instead, he hit into a double play.