Bloop hit sends Red Sox to defeat

Bloop hit sends Red Sox to defeat

BOSTON -- How could such an innocent looking flare off the bat of Craig Monroe cause so much havoc and heartbreak for the Red Sox?

It was just one of those plays that had Wily Mo Pena in no-man's land at the worst possible time, helping contribute to a 3-2 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, adding to the recent woes of the Red Sox.

To set the stage for the bitter finish properly, consider that the Red Sox had just come back to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth. Coco Crisp legged out an infield hit, moved to second on a groundout and scored on yet another big hit by David Ortiz, a two-out knock up the middle against left-handed reliever Wilfredo Ledezma.

Then came the top of the ninth, but that elusive dose of momentum they had just gathered on Ortiz's equalizer could not be bottled.

Mike Timlin walked leadoff man Carlos Guillen and gave up a single by Sean Casey to set up runners at the corners with nobody out, reducing the margin of error to next to nothing.

Up stepped Monroe, who hit a tantalizing fly ball down the line in right and over went Pena, looking to make a catch and then fire to the plate to cut down Guillen, who was poised to tag up to try to score the go-ahead run. It's just that the catch never happened, the ball instead glancing off the side of Pena's glove for what was ruled an RBI single.

"I didn't take my eyes off it," said Pena. "I always have my eyes on the ball. I didn't think about the wall. I was just thinking about trying to catch the ball."

From manager Terry Francona's view in the dugout, he could see a lot of factors contributing to the misplay.

"Well, actually it was a little bit of everything," Francona said. "I think he saw the stands coming, knew he needed to catch it and get rid of it. Probably tried to do everything a little too quick and couldn't handle it. I mean, I know they are going to send Guillen and from where [Pena] was, it was probably gonna be bang-bang."

That's the great unknown. If Pena had caught the ball, there's no telling if he could have nailed Guillen at the plate.

"I don't know," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "It's 260 pounds going in one angle, and he has to regroup. I would have preferred him making the catch and seeing what happens because he has a good arm, but that was a tough play."

Fittingly, Pena did have a chance for redemption with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when one big swing off his bat could have tied the game and set Fenway into one of its biggest uproars of the season. However, Pena struck out looking on a pitch from Todd Jones that either hugged the outside corner, or was just plain outside.

"When I was [in the clubhouse], they told me there were two pitches away," Pena said. "What can I do about that?"

All Boston can do is regroup. After losing the first two of this three-game series against the Tigers, the Red Sox now trail the Yankees by three games in the American League East and the White Sox by the same deficit in the Wild Card standings.

On a night ace Curt Schilling was pitching, the Red Sox felt good about trimming their deficits in the standings. And true to form, Schilling pitched well, giving up two runs over seven innings, walking none and striking out four. But he didn't have much to work with.

Crisp's solo homer in the third was the only run of the game over the first six innings as Schilling and Jeremy Bonderman had a crisp duel in progress.

"We definitely have to swing the bats a little better," Lowell said. "We can't have one run going into the seventh and think we're going to win, 1-0."

Not against the Tigers, who have had the best record in baseball for just about the entire season.

Schilling found himself in a tough situation in the sixth, when Omar Infante led off with a double and Curtis Granderson followed with a single to set up runners at the corners and nobody out. Placido Polanco then hit a grounder to third that Lowell bobbled, and that wound up being a good thing for Boston. Infante, spotting the bobble, tried to score, but Lowell made a perfect throw home to nail him. Schilling made a terrific play on a slow roller down the third-base line, getting his throw to first in time to end the inning with no runs across.

Perhaps the grind of that sixth contributed to Schilling's struggles in the seventh. He opened the inning by giving up singles to Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez and was then tagged for a two-run double to right by Casey. That put the Tigers on top for the first time all night, 2-1.

"The inning starts off with a curveball that he hits exactly the way you want him to hit it, and it falls into left field," Schilling said. "It gets frustrating, I mean, especially if you are working as hard as we did to get out of the sixth inning."

The Red Sox will now try to salvage the finale against Detroit phenom Justin Verlander and then turn their attention to a pivotal five-game showdown against the Yankees.

"We have to pitch, we have to outpitch the other team," Schilling said. "We'll have our nights when we're gonna score and, like any other team, we're going to have to pitch more consistently and better and if we don't, we're gonna play golf in October instead of baseball."

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