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Sloppy seventh inning is Sox's undoing

BOSTON -- Much of the season for the Boston Red Sox has been about searching for positives amid an otherwise negative campaign. On Saturday against Cleveland, that search was not difficult. With the exception of the seventh inning.

There were many silver linings in the 3-2 loss. Jake Peavy had perhaps his best start in over two months, even if he had to wiggle out of trouble in a few innings. For the most part, the defense was sound. And Boston created plenty of chances against five Indians pitchers. Alas, those chances too often came and went without a run and a few plays in the seventh proved to be the difference.

"We played great team baseball," said Peavy, who allowed a run in six innings and left with a 2-1 lead. "So many good plays, everybody was in the right position, playing hard. Just wasn't meant to be today."

Peavy helped contribute to an 0-for-11 showing with runners in scoring position for Cleveland. Once he left, however, an unfortunate series of events made his chance for his first win since April 25 vanish.

The Indians opened the seventh against Craig Breslow with Asdrubal Cabrera's infield hit on a ball that Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli could not scoop. Shortstop Jonathan Herrera made a great stop on the ball and the throw beat Cabrera, but the sure-handed Napoli could not pull in the one-hopper.

Another single put runners on the corners and set up the key play of the game. Jason Kipnis grounded one to Dustin Pedroia, who was playing in just a tad at second base. Pedroia could've gone to second base for an easy double play, conceding the tying run but setting the Sox up for a quicker escape.

That's not Pedroia's nature, however, and his throw home to nail Cabrera looked to be a wise choice as it beat the runner by a few steps. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was unable to hang on and the tying run scored without an out being recorded, opening the door for the Indians to inflict more damage.

Pedroia said his momentum was pulling him to the first-base side and it caused him to yank the throw a bit. Pierzynski, who was charged with an error, pinned all the blame on himself.

"Pedroia made a great play and I tried to make a tag and missed the ball," Pierzynski said. "I just missed it. Pedey made a great play, that's why he's a Gold Glover and that's why I'm not."

That made for two agonizing plays that could have been made and maybe even should have been made, both going against Boston. When Breslow walked the bases and Junichi Tazawa came on to walk in the go-ahead run, they loomed even larger. That's not to say there was any second-guessing.

"Pedey felt like he's got a chance to cut down the runner at home," manager John Farrell said. "Throw was on the backhand side of A.J., just enough to where he doesn't field clean. But can't second-guess that. That's a good, aggressive defensive play.

"Unfortunately we started to nitpick a little bit on the strike zone. Taz just misses a couple of fastballs to [Carlos] Santana for the difference in this one."

Breslow had not worked since June 7 but Farrell was confident bringing him in to protect the 2-1 lead.

"There's complete confidence in him, he had had good success against that part of the lineup," Farrell said. "A couple of ground balls found their way through, and the walk to [David] Murphy puts us in a bases-loaded situation unfortunately. I'd still go back to Bres in that situation again."

Farrell could also express confidence in the results of one of his other big decisions on the day, that being the somewhat unorthodox maneuver to give Brock Holt a start in right field, a position he had never played.

Holt made a couple of challenging catches and also played every hop, carom and roller along the wall with aplomb. He manned the position well enough and handled his various opportunities such that the Indians were never able to push the issue on several balls hit down the line. That's a tricky area for players with whom it is unfamiliar, but Holt had the look of a seasoned veteran.

Group that with Peavy's positive step after a relatively rough stretch, nine hits for an offense that has shown signs of life in the series, and several other solid plays in the field and the Sox had plenty to feel good about.

"Jake gives a quality start, thought he and A.J. worked well together," Farrell said. "We played some very good defense behind him, particularly [Napoli] at first and Brock out in right field. He cut down 90 extra feet that they could've taken. Just ... we came up short."

That's been a theme often in 2014. On Saturday, at the very least, there was no need to second-guess and no issues finding a few positives.