The 6-foot-1, 235-pound right-hander -- traded three times in the last calendar year and demoted from Florida closer to Colorado mop-up man in a matter of weeks -- took the mound. The Red Sox had finally gotten to red-hot Rockies starter Jeff Francis and looked to break through against a reliever who has as many walks (17) as innings (17 1/3) this season.
But, Julio gamely retired Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia on 11 pitches. The Red Sox, who did not roar into the Rockies series, losing six of their past ten games, left again with a whimper.
"When you're going good, you get those hits," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "When you're not, you don't."
It was a rough week for the Boston bats. By most measures, the Red Sox offense stacked up against baseball's best by the beginning of June. At Thursday's end, though, Boston was deadlocked with the Seattle Mariners in sixth place in the Majors in runs. The Sox's on-base percentage, the pride of a lineup that usually grounds opposing pitching to dust, had been surpassed by the rival Yankees.
Such is the fate of a team that goes a week without a David Ortiz RBI or a Coco Crisp run. Since last Thursday, Pedroia, recently baseball's hottest hitter, had compiled exactly three hits. Seventeen days have passed since Manny Ramirez last hit a homer.
Ortiz, particularly, was frustrated by the stinginess of opposing pitching. With the exception of a few hard hits rescued by Colorado gloves, including a pivotal second-inning Drew liner snared by a diving Troy Tulowitzki, Francis worked comfortably through trouble. The Sox left 14 runners on base during the game, and yet the 26-year-old Rockies southpaw offered Ortiz and Ramirez little to hit.
"I mean, they don't care about walking us," Ortiz said. "They pitch like they don't care. Go to first. Whatever."
Colorado manager Clint Hurdle praised his starter for pitching through trouble.
"He pitched himself into some corners and things were tight," Hurdle said, "but he was able to make good pitches and give us what he gave us."
When things are going well, reaching base is a means to a happy end for the Red Sox. Boston still "grinded through" its at-bats, following a team tradition. On Thursday night, it scored just a single run.
"The difference is, you can still grind out at-bats, but you're not getting hits," Lowell said. "It's kind of a simple formula. It's just not that easy to do all the time."
Said catcher Jason Varitek: "We're just a few hits away from that going our way. Plain and simple."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less