Red Sox frustrations boil over
Dustin Pedroia's ejection indicative of anxious times in Boston
It's the one time of the day he can relax and begin to focus on that night's game. He's already in uniform and ready for batting practice. He'll sit quietly with his glove and hat by his side and a bat in his hands.
This week, however, in the midst of a 10-game homestand and the club struggling to find consistent success, there have been many distractions off the field for the Red Sox that seem to have caused some anxious moments, including the recent trade deadline and all the talk about whether manager Bobby Valentine should keep his job.
Pedroia hasn't been as quiet this week.
All he wants to do is win. He wants to lead by example and he wants everyone to focus only on baseball and nothing else. Pedroia definitely wasn't quiet in the late innings of Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
The Red Sox were trailing 5-3 with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning when Pedroia stepped into the box. He found himself quickly down 0-2 to Texas reliever Mike Adams. Pedroia clearly checked his swing on the next offering, but first-base umpire Paul Nauert called him out, saying he went around.
Pedroia was furious, and for good reason. To make matters worse, teammate Adrian Gonzalez followed with a two-out double off the Monster, but he was stranded to end the inning.
"We just came back to make it a 4-3 ballgame, and now it's 5-3 and it was time to get amped up," Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "We were all amped up. Pedey wants to win more than anybody, so when he thinks he's getting screwed a little bit, he's going to say something. From our view, it didn't look like he went. We didn't feel like that was a necessary call at that point in the game."
Pedroia always runs out to his position at the start of an inning, but this time he walked nice and slow. The top of the ninth began with the Rangers' David Murphy being hit by a pitch, and before Murphy could reach first base, Pedroia and Nauert were face-to-face. Pedroia was ejected from the game, only the second time that's happened in his career.
The only other time he was tossed from a game was on Aug. 19, 2008, at Baltimore on a similar play.
Once Pedroia was ejected on Tuesday night, Valentine came running out to argue, too. In fact, for the first time this season, the 37,416 in attendance at Fenway began to chant, "Bobby, Bobby, Bobby," in hopes the manager would get tossed, too. He didn't.
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"It was a bad call," Red Sox starter Jon Lester said. "Pedey is obviously very emotional and plays this game with a lot of heart, and for him to get that fired up, obviously he knew he was right and it was a bad call. I shouldn't say it was a turning point in the game, but if he battles and gets on, then maybe it's a different game."
It was a turning point in the game, and the Red Sox couldn't muster enough to complete the comeback.
Lester suffered the loss, but he was solid for the third consecutive outing. The left-hander worked 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He allowed the four runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
"Jonny pitched great," Saltalamacchia said. "He had every pitch working tonight. He kept people off his fastball away, but was throwing his cutter in. He just pitched an awesome game."
The loss was Lester's 10th of the season, which is a career high, surpassing his previous mark of nine losses in 2009. He's winless in his past seven starts (7.49 ERA in that span), but he's encouraged by the way he's pitched the past three (4.79 ERA).
"He's a bulldog and he never gives in, regardless of what's going on. They can tell him to go throw righty tomorrow and he'll do it because that's the kind of guy he is," Saltalamacchia said.
"To see where he's at right now, I can't be happier for him. I know he didn't get the results he wanted, but he's really heading in the right direction. He's the Jon Lester we all know and want on the mound every time out."
Lester was dealing through the first five innings and allowed only two hits and induced eight ground balls in the process. The game remained scoreless until the sixth inning, when Lester allowed a leadoff double to Murphy, who later scored on a one-out, RBI single by Ian Kinsler. With two outs, Josh Hamilton provided another RBI single to give Texas a 2-0 lead.
The seventh inning wasn't too kind to Lester and the Red Sox, either.
Boston's southpaw allowed two more runs as Texas gained a 4-0 advantage, and Lester was removed with two outs in the inning.
"The past three starts I've felt like I've thrown the ball better than I have all year and I'm 0-2," Lester said. "I feel great physically. I feel like we've made the right adjustments. The balls are down in the zone and I'm not giving up a lot of hard-hit balls."
The Red Sox made a big dent in the Rangers' lead when Will Middlebrooks hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer into the Monster seats in the seventh. The homer was reviewed to check if a few fans leaned over the wall and interfered with the ball. After a few minutes, the umpires emerged from the visitor's dugout and signaled a home run.
It was the fourth time this season the Red Sox had a pinch-hit home run, and it was the first for Middlebrooks in his career.
"When you're put in that position as a pinch hitter, you have to drive in runs," Middlebrooks said. "I was looking for a pitch up in the zone and I happened to get it on the first pitch."
Texas pushed another run across in the top of the eighth for a 5-3 lead, but in the bottom half of the inning, the Red Sox showed a bit of fire when Pedroia felt as though he was shown up by Nauert and ultimately ejected for his barrage of words toward the umpire.
Texas added another run in the ninth for a 6-3 lead and the Red Sox could not answer.
The series ends with a matinee game on Wednesday with Josh Beckett making the start for the Red Sox against Texas left-hander Matt Harrison. Boston has lost five of its past seven games and the frustration is mounting.
"I can't keep talking about being frustrated and all this stuff," Lester said. "It's like beating a dead horse. Everybody here obviously knows we're frustrated and we don't like losing. There are positives, for me, personally, in this game that I'm going to take and go forward to the next one."
Pedroia has been so fired up of late, it'll be interesting to see how he responds on Wednesday.