Commentary

Red Sox bullpen closes book on season

Papelbon, others can't hold lead in ninth as Boston's fleeting hopes fade away

Updated: September 5, 2010, 10:12 PM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Messed up beyond all recognition.

Not only were the Boston Red Sox swept by the Chicago White Sox this weekend at Fenway Park, the manner in which they lost Sunday afternoon completely embodies what has been happening of late.

M.U.B.A.R.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Papelbon
Elsa/Getty ImagesAll Jonathan Papelbon got for throwing 48 pitches, his career high as a reliever, was his seventh blown save of the season.

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon suffered his seventh blown save of the season after allowing four runs on two hits and two walks in 1⅓ innings of work as the White Sox scored four times in the top of the ninth inning en route to a 7-5 victory.

"I don't think we rate [losses]," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "When you lose late, we have about five or six minutes to digest it before I [meet the media]. Probably not in the best mood, but we worked hard and we ask a lot of Pap. And we go to the ninth with a two-run lead, especially when we tacked on that last run, feel pretty good about ourselves. Then we walk away about an hour later with a loss, so yeah, it hurts."

Papelbon was asked to record five outs when he was summoned from the bullpen in the top of the eighth inning to face White Sox pinch hitter Manny Ramirez with one man on. At the time Boston had a 4-3 lead. The 37,570 in attendance went crazy as the Sox closer came running in from the bullpen. In fact, it was the only time during this series the ballpark was energized.

The stage was set for an epic battle.

Papelbon clearly was pumped up and threw Ramirez all fastballs between 97 and 99 mph. Papelbon's seventh pitch grazed Ramirez's hand and he was awarded first base. It was anticlimactic for sure, but Papelbon retired the next two batters to end the threat. He threw 15 pitches in the inning.

Boston pushed across another run in the bottom of the eighth for 5-3 advantage before the implosion that was the top of the ninth.

Papelbon got a quick out before walking Alex Rios. Papelbon struck out pinch hitter Andruw Jones for the second out, but Rios stole second. Chicago's Carlos Quentin then lifted a lazy fly ball to shallow center field. Second baseman Bill Hall, shortstop Yamaico Navarro and center fielder Ryan Kalish all charged after the ball, but it dropped in and rolled past a diving Kalish.

Rios scored and Quentin reached second because no one was covering the bag.

"The ball that fell into center field, [Papelbon] got caught watching," Francona said. "Everybody is going after it and he needs to get back to second. That ends up being huge because then the next play, it's second and third as opposed to the run scoring. And there's a lot that happened in between, but that was a huge play."

Papelbon said he didn't think it would have mattered whether he covered second.

"I think he would have been safe regardless," he said.

Chicago's Ramon Castro lined a shot to right-center field. Kalish again got a good jump and converged on the ball. He dove in an attempt to make the catch, but came up just short as the tying run scored.

"The first one I was playing a little bit deeper with Quentin up, especially with a man on second with two outs, I was playing back and a little shaded into right center because if he hits a ball off the left-field wall, it's going to be a double," Kalish said. "I always think I should catch every ball, and talking to a couple of guys, they thought it was a true blooper.

"The second one, I got a good read and he hit the ball good. I gave it all I had and it didn't happen. Obviously, I wish I would have caught one of them but I didn't. It's a shame because Pap was pitching his butt off for us and I really wish I could have caught one of them.

"In that situation, the way that ball was going, I was diving the whole way. It was tailing away. I felt like I did everything I could. I really wish I could have caught it. It would have been really nice, but I didn't and it stinks."

Papelbon then walked Alexei Ramirez before Francona gave his closer the hook. Papelbon had reached 48 pitches, a career high as a reliever.

"I didn't finish the job, basically," Papelbon said. "I came in throwing the ball well and wasn't able to execute a few pitches the way I wanted to in the end. I feel fine, physically. I don't think it had anything to do with the number of pitches.

"I'm not paying attention to anything out there about pitch count or pitch selection or anything like that," he said. "I'm just trying to get the outs I need to get and just trying to finish the job."

He didn't -- and it got worse.

The Red Sox summoned Dustin Richardson from the bullpen and the lefty walked the only batter he faced, loading the bases. Boston then brought in Robert Manuel, who issued back-to-back walks as Chicago gained a 7-5 lead.

"I was put in there to do a job and I didn't do it," Manuel said. "Maybe I got squeezed on a couple of pitches, but that's not an excuse. I should have gotten the job done and I take full responsibility for the loss today."

Richardson and Manuel should never have been in this game, but Papelbon didn't hold back his emotions about the three consecutive walks issued by the relievers.

"No. I don't feel for them," Papelbon said. "No. Their job is to come in and try to get outs just like everybody else, and to sit here and say you feel sorry for them, and feel bad that they had to come into that situation? No, no, I don't feel sorry for them. No."

In the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox were retired in order to complete the implosion.

M.U.B.A.R.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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