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Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Joel Hanrahan doesn't feel love

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- That new love affair twixt a town and a team?

You might want to hold off on ordering flowers just yet.

New Boston Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan learned first-hand Wednesday night how quickly this place can turn on a man when he flipped a pending Sox win one strike from completion into a stunning 8-5 defeat to the Baltimore Orioles, allowing five runs in the ninth.

Joel Hanrahan, Manny Machado
Manny Machado rounds first after hitting a three-run homer that capped a five-run ninth against closer Joel Hanrahan.

The first run scored on a home run by Chris Davis, the tying run scored on a wild pitch, and the next pitch resulted in a three-run home run by Manny Machado into the Green Monster seats.

The first non-sellout crowd (30,862) in nearly 10 years (and 820 games, counting postseason) already had endured a steady rain in the early innings and a 43-minute delay after five. They did not spare Hanrahan's feelings as he trudged off the mound, booing with gusto as manager John Farrell summoned lefty Andrew Miller to collect the last out Hanrahan was unable to deliver.

"I mean, I probably would have gave the same reception too," said Hanrahan, who had converted his first three save opportunities this season. "They stuck through a rain delay, stuck it out. We had two big home runs right there. Lose a game that way, that's not fun.

"That's the life of a reliever. One day you're a goat, the next day you're a hero. It's just kind of how it goes."

Entrusted with a 5-3 advantage entering the ninth inning, Hanrahan gave up a home run to straightaway center to Davis, his fifth home run in eight games, just as he'd done with Adam Jones in the ninth in Monday's home opener. In that game, Hanrahan stopped the bleeding, giving up a two-out double to J.J. Hardy but no more runs.

This time, Hanrahan opened a vein, giving up a two-out single to Ryan Flaherty, walking Nolan Reimold on four pitches, then walking Nate McLouth on a full count, which came after a visit from pitching coach Juan Nieves.

On Hanrahan's first pitch to Machado, Hanrahan bounced a cutter for a wild pitch that allowed pinch-runner Alexi Casilla to score the tying run. How was Hanrahan trying to pitch Machado?

"Not the way I did," he said. "First-pitch cutter, trying to get a ground ball or something, make him put it in play. At that point, I probably was overthrowing it a little bit. I overthrew it, threw it in the dirt, then tried to keep it at that. The next pitch was a fastball up and in that he kind of turned on. Tough day."

Hanrahan said he knew he probably had to slow himself down as things spun out of control.

"You get in a tight situation and sometimes you try to go harder," he said. "As athletes, we tell ourselves to slow down and relax, and sometimes that's not easy."

The Red Sox had taken a 5-3 lead in the sixth on back-to-back home runs by Daniel Nava, his third in three games, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a blast over the visitors' bullpen for his first of the season. Nava and Saltalamacchia also had combined to create the team's first run, Nava drawing a two-out walk from Orioles starter Jake Arrieta in the second and scoring on Saltalamacchia's double off the Wall.

Three Sox relievers -- Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Bailey -- had combined for three hitless innings, striking out five, in relief of Ryan Dempster, who allowed just one earned run in five innings. Errors by outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Jackie Bradley Jr. led to runs, and Dempster would have pitched longer if rain had not forced a stoppage in play.

Bradley and Ellsbury got those two runs back when the rookie walked to open the third and Ellsbury followed with a sinking liner that Reimold missed with a dive in left, the ball rolling into the corner for a triple. Ellsbury then scored on Shane Victorino's sacrifice fly.

This was only the second lead the Red Sox bullpen has given up in eight games this season. Uehara has yet to allow a baserunner in three outings spanning three innings, striking out three. Bailey has six whiffs in 3 1/3 scoreless innings in which he has allowed one hit. Tazawa has a win in four appearances, the only run he has allowed coming on a game-tying home run by Jose Reyes on Friday night in Toronto.

"We're a unit down there," Bailey said. "[Hanrahan] is our guy, and we know our roles down there. We'll go out there and do our jobs and come back tomorrow."

Bailey would have been the closer last season until a freak thumb injury in spring training ruined his summer. Given all the goodwill engendered by the Sox's fast start, was he surprised that Hanrahan heard boos?

"This is a great city to play in, man," Bailey said. "They deserve the best. You know, it's part of the game. He'll go out there tomorrow, shut it down one, two, three and those boos will turn to cheers. We're not worried about him or any of the fans or anything like that. They've got our backs and they deserve a winning team here."

Farrell expressed confidence in his closer. It would have been shocking, of course, had he done otherwise. "We're not running from him," he said.

"Coming over and learning this league, he's understanding that there's power up and down the lineup, particularly the top half, and this club [the Orioles], they can drive the ball out of the ballpark," Farrell said. "As Joel is making his way through the American League, particularly the American League East, location is key, particularly in those late-inning moments."