Lester, Red Sox drop Coors Field duel

Lester, Red Sox drop Coors Field duel

DENVER -- There wasn't much joy for the Red Sox in their first game back at Coors Field since that World Series-clinching victory the night of Oct. 28, 2007. Instead, Tuesday was a night marked by frustration, and ultimately a 2-1 defeat to the Rockies.

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If not for one missed opportunity here or there -- or one pebble in the dirt that caused a game-turning bad hop -- the night could have been a completely different story.

For the most part, however, it all seemed to come down to a National League moment, one that did not go in favor of the Red Sox.

It was the top of the seventh inning, bases loaded and two outs. The Red Sox were down, 1-0, and Jon Lester, who had thrown only 90 pitches up to that point, was due up.

So manager Terry Francona was forced to remove Lester before he was ready to, and David Ortiz came up as a pinch-hitter with the game on the line. Coors Field, infested by a fair share of traveling Red Sox fans, was roaring with anticipation. Rockies manager Jim Tracy went to lefty Joe Beimel. Ortiz worked the count to 2-1, and hit a crisp grounder right at second baseman Jonathan Herrera and the threat was gone.

"It's one of those situations -- we're in the National League, it's hard to let him hit with the bases loaded," said Francona. "Any other situation, if we had scored a run, we were going to let him hit, because I thought he was throwing so well. It's hard to let him hit with the bases loaded when we're down."

Ortiz -- who will start Wednesday night's game at first base -- wanted to be the hero. But this time, it was not to be.

"It's good," Ortiz said of coming up in such a pressure-packed situation. "You've got to go and try your best. I went out there to see a pitch that I could hit. That's about it."

It was a satisfying out for Beimel. Not only did he get the best of one of the most feared hitters in the game, but he also preserved a superb pitching performance by right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who fired 6 2/3 shutout innings to earn the win.

"It's just one of those situations in the game where it's really fun," said Beimel. "The crowd's going crazy and you get to come in. Chacin pitched a great game, and to be able to come in and pick him up and leave his runners out there, that's my job. It was a good time."

Making the return to Coors Field a bit more eerie for the Red Sox, it was Lester -- who earned that clinching win in Game 4 three seasons ago -- on the hill. This time, he was a victim of tough luck.

"You basically said it," said Lester. "It's a tough one to lose. The guy outpitched me. I really had a lot going. I was able to locate on both sides of the plate and gave up six singles. Probably one of them was hit hard. It was just their night, and you have to tip your hat to Chacin. He threw the ball well."

It won't get any easier for the Red Sox on Wednesday night, as they gear up for the pitcher with the best numbers in the Majors -- Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who is 13-1` with a 1.15 ERA.

The Red Sox had a chance early, loading the bases with two outs against Chacin, with the dangerous Victor Martinez at the plate. But after working the count to 3-0, Martinez grounded out on a 3-2 fastball.

"He did a great job," Martinez said of Chacin. "We had our chance in that inning he got a little wild and we let him go, and then he just came right back and started making his pitches again. That's baseball. Sometimes you get your opportunities, and if you don't get it, that's what happens."

The Rockies turned in their only substantial rally against Lester in the fifth, when Chris Nelson led off with a single for his first Major League hit, and Clint Barmes followed with a walk. With two outs, Todd Helton lined an RBI single to right, breaking the scoreless tie.

What the Sox really wanted to do was keep it a one-run game. And it looked like they were in position to do that when, with two on and one out, Ryan Spilborghs hit a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play. But that changed when the ball hit something -- a rock, an uneven patch of dirt, a pebble? -- and exploded over shortstop Marco Scutaro for an RBI single to center.

In the ninth, the Red Sox gave it one last shot. Adrian Beltre led off with a double to right-center. Mike Cameron singled through the hole to bring home Beltre and make it a one-run game. With two outs, Francona called on Mike Lowell to pinch-hit against Matt Belisle.

A World Series MVP in his last trip through Denver, Lowell stung one into the hole, but Clint Barmes made a diving tumbling stop and recorded the game's final out on a one-hop throw to first.

Was Lowell surprised at the play by Barmes?

"Not at all," he said. "I'm slow. If he can get up, he has all the time in the world."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.