Commentary

Red Sox fizzle out at rainy Fenway

No grand fireworks versus the Tigers this time, as Max Scherzer dazzles

Updated: May 17, 2014, 3:16 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- This was supposed to be a return to Friendly Fenway. Instead, the Red Sox found themselves held hostage in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome, with Detroit ace Max Scherzer and four Tigers relievers shutting out the Sox on three singles 1-0 before a sodden crowd of 37,225 that waited through a 47-minute rain delay for a run that never came.

After another excruciating defeat -- Boston's 10th by one run, the most in the American League so far this season -- de facto team captain Dustin Pedroia headed into the manager's office, which is not part of his usual postgame routine.

Fireworks? Hardly. For one thing, John Farrell's door remained open, which is not the case when there's a chance that decibel levels might rise in the presence of the professional eavesdroppers camped out in the clubhouse.

Pedroia did not stick around to reveal what was discussed, but it looked for all the world like a civil conversation between grownups, Pedroia sitting on a sofa with bench coach Torey Lovullo while Farrell sat at his desk.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesThe one run Jon Lester allowed Friday was all the Tigers needed, as he fell to 4-5 and the Sox to 20-21.

Sure, frustration might be cresting, especially on a night in which the Sox had two golden opportunities to win this game with runners on first and second and no out but went Grady Sizemore double play, Mike Napoli whiff in the sixth inning, then went Jackie Bradley Jr. whiff, A.J. Pierzynski double play in the seventh.

But no one is close to declaring mutiny on the Iroquois (the name of John W. Henry's little dinghy), even as the Sox dropped a game under .500 again for the first time in a week. This has not been an easy stretch, with two walk-off losses in Minnesota and now the first 1-0 loss the Sox have had since playing these same Tigers in Game 1 of the ALCS last year. But it's also the middle of May.

"I think it's a common theme we keep talking about," said Sox pitcher Jon Lester, who gave up a run in the first inning that proved sufficient to ruin his evening, his record dropping to 4-5. "I don't feel we've hit our stride on both sides of the baseball. You look at our division, we're not far off.

"I don't think there are any worries, any type of panic. Just keep grinding it out. I can just speak for the pitchers. We're going to keep grinding out innings and chucking the ball to home plate."

The thwarted Sox rallies were grist, of course, for considerable second-guessing, especially given Farrell's decision to eschew bunting the runners over in either situation. Having Sizemore bunt would have invited an intentional walk to David Ortiz. Farrell wasn't going to let that happen. Sizemore put up a fight with Scherzer before hitting a smash right at second baseman Ian Kinsler, who started the double play. Ortiz was walked, anyway, and Napoli froze on a changeup after Scherzer had fed him nothing but fastballs and sliders.

Bradley would have seemed a more likely candidate to bunt in the seventh, but the Sox's thinking there was that the Tigers would walk Pierzynski, who was pinch-hitting, setting up a potential double play for David Ross.

But while Bradley was just 1-for-12 this week in Minnesota, striking out three times Thursday, the Sox had seen him line out to the left-field track in the same game and line out twice the day before. And while, anecdotally, it might not feel that way, Bradley has had more hits (11) with runners in scoring position than anyone else on the team. (Sizemore, by the way, was batting a team-best .346 with RISP).

Bunting the runners over was not an option Farrell chose to exercise.

"Knowing what the strengths of the individual are, we just wanted to let him [Sizemore] swing away right there," Farrell said. "And Jackie, as well, late in the game."

Bradley showed bunt on one pitch from reliever Evan Reed, but did so on his own.

"They had faith in me," he said. "I had faith in myself. With runners in scoring position this year, I've been putting quality at-bats together, but I wasn't able to get it done tonight."

Reed, who was hitting 98 mph on the radar gun Friday night, got Bradley to chase a third-strike slider. Pierzynski was announced to hit for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who had taken a line drive off his index finger on Ian Kinsler's infield hit in the first (Kinsler scored the game's only run on Torii Hunter's base hit). New Detroit manager Brad Ausmus countered with lefty Ian Krol, who came in holding left-handed hitters to an OPS 300 percentage points lower than righties.

Farrell could have countered with Jonny Gomes, but with Jonathan Herrera needed to replace Middlebrooks at third, he felt he had to keep one player on his bench. Pierzynski grounded to short, the Tigers turned two and the Sox went six up, six down over the last two innings.

So the Sox took more body blows. No surprise, of course, that Scherzer threw many of them. Ausmus told reporters afterward that might have been the best Scherzer has pitched this season, which is saying a lot for a guy who has won six straight decisions, has 73 strikeouts in 59 innings and has an ERA of 1.83, the lowest in the AL.

Reed threw one that made a direct connection, a 96-mile-an-hour fastball that struck Xander Bogaerts just above the left wrist.

"Right on the bone," he said. "It was a little scary, but then it stopped hurting. Blessed, I guess."

Bradley, meanwhile, is trying to keep the faith but admits to feeling something less than blessed these days.

"Very frustrating," he said. "I'm lost.

"I'm not getting the results I want, and I'm sure it's not the results they want. It's one of those happy-medium things. There are days I've hit the ball really hard -- tonight wasn't one of those nights, but the last few nights I've had some very well-hit balls and nothing to show for it.

"Back to the drawing board."

And nowhere near the Thunderdome.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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