Rangers 4-2, FINAL: Despite Mike Lowell's RBI single in the ninth, another listless performance translates into the first four-game losing streak of 2009. Meanwhile, the Yankees win again to take sole possession of first place. Should Clay Buchholz fail to stop the bleeding Wednesday, the Red Sox will suffer their first three-game sweep of the season, creating even more panic across the Nation.
End 8th, Rangers 4-1: The stopper is about to be stopped. The Rangers tack on another run on a Josh Hamilton single, scoring Michael Young. The Red Sox haven't scored more than three runs in the past four games, let alone one inning, so consider this one a lost cause.
Mid 8th, Rangers 3-1: Three up, three down. The seventh-inning failure seems to have sucked what little life there was out of the Sox's system.
End 7th, Rangers 3-1: You had to figure after the Red Sox let their scoring chance go by so weakly that the Rangers were going to make them pay for it. They did. Andruw Jones led off with a double, then moved to third on a single to right that handcuffed Drew. With one out, David Murphy hit a routine fly to left, but Jason Bay did a poor job of positioning himself for the throw home, and Lowell had to cut it off and throw home himself, too late to get Jones. That could well be the final nail in the coffin tonight.
Mid 7th, Rangers 2-1: So much for lessons learned. Jennings walks Bay, nearly walks Drew, who refuses to get on base under any circumstances, then walks Lowell. So what happens? Jason Varitek strikes out on three pitches and Jed Lowrie pops out to shortstop on the second pitch. Terrible.
9:40 p.m.: The 26-pitch sixth pays another dividend, besides the run: Tommy Hunter is out and the bullpen is in. And just like that, Jason Jennings walks leadoff hitter Jason Bay, the first Red Sox leadoff hitter to reach (and not get thrown out) since Saturday.
End 6th, Rangers 2-1: Beckett allows his first hit since the first inning, with Michael Young lining a single to center. But the hit is quickly wiped off the board, as Pedroia starts a 4-3-6-4 double play to end the inning. Hamilton grounded one to Pedroia and Young stopped running to avoid being forced. But where the Blue Jays failed to execute the double play with Pedroia running the other night, the Gold Glove right side of the infield made the play work to perfection.
Mid 6th, Rangers 2-1: Here's the problem (and the solution) in a nutshell: From the start of the third inning until two outs in the sixth, 10 of 12 Red Sox hitters saw three pitches or less in their at-bats. Only one of those 10 reached base. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury has been up three times tonight and has seen a total of eight pitches.
But when Dustin Pedroia forced Hunter into a 10-pitch at-bat with two outs in the sixth, he was rewarded with a single, snapping a string of 10 straight outs. Kevin Youkilis then went five pitches and ended up with an RBI double. Ortiz saw six pitches before popping out, but Hunter, who had 59 pitches through five innings, needed 26 to get through the sixth. It's not rocket science, folks.
End 5th, Rangers 2-0: That two-out single by Hank Blalock in the first inning is looming like Large Marge right now. Beckett has retired 13 in a row since then, and it doesn't appear the Rangers are going to mount much of an attack the rest of the way. But two runs feels like 200 against the Red Sox right now. And to make matters worse, the Yankees and Rays are both winning tonight.
Mid 5th, Rangers 2-0: More of the same. Beckett's pitching great, Sox can't hit the broadside of a barn. Rinse, lather, repeat.
End 4th, Rangers 2-0: Beckett does have a pair of homers in a Red Sox uniform. Maybe he could help them by hitting in this game. He's already getting it done on the mound, making it 10 in a row, including his fourth strikeout.
Mid 4th, Rangers 2-0: As if the Red Sox needed any help making outs, Ian Kinsler makes a terrific grab of a Jason Bay foul ball, reaching into the seats without killing himself to record the final out in another 1-2-3 inning.
End 3rd, Rangers 2-0: Beckett is settled in, retiring seven in a row since Blalock's two-run single in the first. Beckett finishes the inning by striking out Josh Hamilton on three pitches.
Mid 3rd, Rangers 2-0: It's not so much that the Red Sox aren't hitting, it's the way they're doing it that's so troubling. The patented patience at the plate has deserted them, as Hunter has breezed through three innings at just 39 pitches. This is not your grandson's Red Sox right now.
End 2nd, Rangers, 2-0: Beckett rebounds with a 1-2-3 second inning, but you have to start wondering, given the offensive woes, if the damage is already done.
Mid 2nd, Rangers 2-0: When it's going bad, Part II: David Ortiz delivers the first leadoff hit, hitting the ball well to right field. Maybe too well. With the team pressing for offense, Ortiz foolishly tried stretching out a double and was out by a Texas mile. So, in a way, leadoff hitters are now 0-for-20. Jason Bay followed with a walk, but neither J.D, Drew nor Mike Lowell could advance him,
End 1st, Rangers 2-0: When it's going bad …
As we noted, Beckett is 6-0 in his last 10 starts coming off a loss, but that's being put to an early test by the Rangers. Beckett allows a leadoff double to Ian Kinsler, then a two-out walk to Andruw Jones. Both runners advance on a double steal, then Hank Blalock, who was a thorn in John Smoltz's side Monday, delivers a two-run single to right. Already, the slumping Sox bats are on notice tonight.
Mid 1st, 0-0: The bats are off to another icy start against rookie Tommy Hunter, with Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia flying out to right before Kevin Youkilis strikes out on a check swing. Facing Hunter might not be the best remedy for slumping bats. Hunter, who just turned 23 two weeks ago, has allowed three runs over his past three starts, a total of 17 2/3 innings. And nothing spells doom for the Red Sox more than a rookie pitcher they've never seen before.
7:50 p.m.: Tim Wakefield talked to the Providence Journal this afternoon, sounding as if the back injury isn't serious, but given his recent injury history, he knows its prudent to rest now, rather than pay later.
"Speaking on past experiences, I do need to slow down," Wakefield said. "Last year it wasn't really a solution to give me time off because I was pitching very well at the time. I think we are very well covered right now with Clay being here and the pitching staff is pitching well. Hopefully I can get healthy and get back out there.
"The docs wanted to build in some rest and that's what we tried to accomplish going into the break by having Clay pitch that first game and realigning everybody with Josh [Beckett] and me being in the back," said Wakefield. "Another week's not going to hurt anything. It is what it is and I can't do much about it. I'm trying to get back on the field and continue to pitch the way I did the first half. It's just a minor setback."
5:25 p.m.: Breaking news out of Arlington: Tim Wakefield, who has spent significant time on the disabled list late in each of the past two seasons, is heading back there once again. Wakefield, 42, was placed on the DL Tuesday with a lower back strain. Clay Buchholz, who made his season debut in Toronto last Friday before heading back to Pawtucket, will take Wakefield's spot in the rotation Wednesday against the Rangers.
Wakefield, who was named to the All-Star team but didn't pitch last Tuesday in St. Louis, inujured the back during a side session Saturday in Toronto. Wakefield hadn't pitched in a game since July 8 at Fenway Park.
In both 2007 and 2008, Wakefield injured his right shoulder in August and spent time on the DL. The 2007 injury was originally diagnosed as a back injury, before it was revealed he had a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the 2007 World Series.