Sweet double dip turns sour for Sox

Sweet double dip turns sour for Sox

BOSTON -- For two and a half hours, the story unfolded with an eerie familiarity. Once again, a pitching mismatch tilted the wrong way, benefiting not the 15-game winner, but the undertested talent on the other side.

But this time, with Angels right-hander Ervin Santana ready to spoil Josh Beckett's attempt at his 16th win -- hours after Boston's Clay Buchholz did the same to John Lackey -- the Red Sox changed the story, giving the fans a taste of vintage Fenway baseball. Only this one finished with a heavy hint of suffering.

The Angels won, 7-5, in Game 2 on Friday night, overcoming a game-changing Red Sox rally in the eighth inning. With it, they salvaged a doubleheader split, ending a day in which Boston's roster fluctuated with the scores.

"It was such a roller coaster," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, summarizing a bizarre nightcap, minutes after he was ejected with first baseman Kevin Youkilis during a ninth-inning dispute with the umpires. "We come back where Santana had us handcuffed. They get into their bullpen, and maybe we force them to go to [Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez] a little earlier than they want to ... [we've] got a chance to kind of sneak one out.

"We had it set up just like we wanted it. It didn't work."

Julio Lugo, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia got the Red Sox started in the bottom of the eighth by loading the bases, with Los Angeles holding a 4-1 lead. A wild pitch by Rodriguez made it 4-2, and David Ortiz took care of the rest, lacing a double to left-center. Manny Ramirez sent Big Papi home with an RBI double, giving Boston a 5-4 come-from-behind advantage.

Seeking to close the book on the Angels, Eric Gagne entered the game with Jonathan Papelbon unavailable after a Game 1 save. It was the kind of situation Francona and the front office envisioned when they acquired the former Dodgers and Rangers stopper at the trade deadline.

"We were very excited the way it unfolded," Francona said. "I was looking forward to that exact scenario."

First, Gagne induced leadoff batter Reggie Willits to fly out after a 13-pitch at-bat. Then, Casey Kotchman walked. Three consecutive hits, capped by Vladimir Guerrero's second RBI double of the game, finished the Red Sox in the ninth.

Boston went three up and three down in a ninth that was louder -- with Youkilis' strikeout on an apparent foul tip, resulting in his and Francona's ejections -- than it was eventful. After the game, Gagne, not to mention many of his teammates, left the clubhouse before speaking to the media.

"You've got to ask that to the manager," said Ortiz, when asked if the team still had confidence in Gagne.

But Ortiz added: "You know, people just need to let him do his thing. Everybody knows that he's a good pitcher. He's got good stuff. Sometimes you feel like you want to overdo things, just to prove people that they're wrong.

"But I believe in Gagne. I believe in the stuff that he has. And I know, I'm pretty sure, he's going to step at the time when we need it."

For a time, it seemed that the Red Sox would go home winners. Their eighth-inning rally followed a near absence of offense against Santana, a 24-year-old with an 8.79 road ERA, who dictated the course and tempo of the game until he left in the seventh.

Beckett kept it close. He allowed five hits and two runs, only one of them earned, while striking out eight in seven innings. But after his exit, the Angels appeared to pull away with two runs off Manny Delcarmen in the eighth, highlighted by a Guerrero triple and a Gary Matthews Jr. home run, which gave the Angels a 4-1 lead.

And then the game turned.

"It happened fast," Francona said. "David takes a beautiful swing and Manny follows it. [The] place is electric.

"But the same things that will make you laugh will make you cry."

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.