A crucial error by second baseman Tony Graffanino followed by a three-run home run allowed by David Wells in the pivotal fifth inning changed the complexion of the game and helped send the defending World Series champions back to Boston trailing, 2-0, and on the verge of elimination.
After the game, neither Wells nor Graffanino made excuses. They don't have time. One more loss and the series is over.
"You hang a curveball and before you know it, you're down one run," Wells said. "It's just a tough situation. You don't go out there and try to make errors, you just go out and try to make plays. I had my opportunity. I blame myself more so because I hung the curveball."
Wells cruised through the first four innings, pitching a shutout and keeping the White Sox off balance with his usual stuff. He was the veteran southpaw who came into the game with a 10-3 record in 25 postseason appearances. He was on a roll.
Things changed in the fifth with the Red Sox up, 4-0.
White Sox designated hitter Carl Everett singled through the hole at second base to lead off the inning and scored from first base on a double by Aaron Rowand for Chicago's first run. A.J. Pierzynski grounded out to Graffanino, moving Rowand to third. Joe Crede followed with an RBI single up the middle to score Rowand and cut Boston's lead in half at 4-2.
Then it happened.
The next batter, Juan Uribe, hit what appeared to be a routine groundball to Graffanino's right -- it turned out to be anything but. The ball rolled through the second baseman's legs, allowing Crede to motor to third and Uribe to reach first base safely. One out later, Tadahito Iguchi connected on a breaking ball for a three-run homer to push the White Sox ahead, 5-4.
Jermaine Dye struck out looking to end the inning, but the damage had been done.
Graffanino said afterward that he was attempting to turn a double play on the speedy Uribe. After his error, the second baseman had a brief chat with Wells near the mound asking his good friend and longtime teammate to "pick him up." Wells didn't there. He did after the game.
"I've known Tony for a long time. Those things are gonna happen in the game," Wells said. "I'm sure he feels bad. I feel bad because I didn't pick him up, you don't point the finger at anybody. If you point anything, point it at me because I'm the one who gave up the home run."
Following the eventful fifth, the Red Sox would not score again. They would only pick up three more hits in the innings that remained.
"I think [Graffanino] understood the importance of who is running and being quick," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I thought he tried to be a little bit too quick. He was trying to make a reasonable chance. I think we had a shot at it. It would have been close."
Graffanino blamed himself for the loss.
"I didn't get a good read on it off the bat. I came in hard and I rushed it, and it obviously got by me," he said. "Obviously, that's a huge play right there and it cost us the ballgame. When we got the second out I thought we were going to get out of that inning. Then he hits the home run and I'm feeling like the game swung in their direction, and it's completely my fault."
In the ninth inning, Graffanino had a chance at redemption. He hit a one-out double, but he never advanced past second base. Johnny Damon fouled out to the catcher and then Edgar Renteria grounded out to Uribe to end the game.
"Tony is an instrumental part of this team," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "Unfortunately, Iguchi guessed right and hit the ball well. We still had a lot of game left and a lot of chances to come back."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.