Lost opportunities doom Red Sox

Lost opportunities doom Red Sox

BOSTON -- The Red Sox welcomed the newly crowned basketball champions -- the Boston Celtics -- before the game in an impassioned pregame ceremony and even wore green uniforms to celebrate the occasion. But the buzz of Boston's latest champions being on the field and in the dugout did not rub off on the World Series champions of a year ago.

Once the pomp and circumstance -- not to mention a rain delay of an hour and 14 minutes -- ended, the Red Sox squandered opportunities at the plate and couldn't make pitches when they had to in a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.

Fittingly, it came down to one more chance for the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth.

Dustin Pedroia kept hope alive by ripping a one-out double to left against Ryan Franklin. After J.D. Drew struck out, Manny Ramirez drew a walk. Mike Lowell ripped an RBI single up the middle and the Red Sox were 90 feet from tying the game.

Up stepped Kevin Youkilis, but he flew out to right, ending the threat, and the game.

On the night, the Sox loaded the bases three times and the only run came on a double-play ball.

"Bases loaded no outs, bases loaded one out," said Lowell. "We came up with one total run. You could probably say those are big opportunities we let go. But like I said, I'll take the heart of our order in those situations more often than not. So you have to tip your hat sooner or later. You know, they made pitches, they got the double play and they got out of it."

Tim Wakefield took the loss, allowing seven hits and four runs -- three earned -- over seven innings.

"I'm trying to concentrate on what I have to do and pitch, but there were some opportunities there that unfortunately we came out on the short end of the stick on that one," said Wakefield. "You have to tip your cap to those guys. Kyle Lohse pitched a good game."

Julio Lugo belted a game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the sixth, ending a home run drought of 223 at-bats, to tie the game at 2. It was Lugo's first long ball of 2008.

"It feels great," said Lugo. "What can I say? Any time you hit a home run, it feels great. It's not a big deal for me. I'm not a home run hitter. If I hit them, I hit them. If I don't, it's all right."

Making the equalizer more significant for Lugo is the fact he made back-to-back throwing errors in the top of the seventh, enabling the Cardinals to snap a 1-1 tie. Lugo has 16 errors on the season.

What disappointed Wakefield most is that he couldn't keep the momentum in the Boston dugout after Lugo had tied it.

Skip Schumaker unloaded for a two-run homer to right against Wakefield in the top of the seventh, making it 4-2.

In his previous at-bats, Schumaker had tried to wait out Wakefield. With the game on the line, he decided to get aggressive.

"Guy in scoring position, I wasn't waiting around for Wakefield anymore," Schumaker said. "I did that the first couple of at-bats, and I was 0-for-3 my first three at-bats. You get behind on him, it is not fun. That pitch is just going everywhere, and you don't know when to swing. So I didn't want to wait around, and I was fortunate enough to get a ball up and do something with it."

"My job is to get the offense back in there as quick as possible, and I didn't do my job," Wakefield said.

Then again, he did what he always seems to do. He kept the game right there for his team to win.

"I thought he threw the ball real well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I say it so often with Wake, you look up and it's the seventh inning, and you [have] a chance to win. Obviously, the two-run homer wasn't good, but I thought he threw the ball very well."

The Red Sox had a golden chance to either tie or go ahead in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with nobody out and Ramirez, who has 20 career grand slams, at the plate. However, Ramirez didn't come through this time, hitting into a 4-6-3 double play against Russ Springer that got a run home to make it 4-3. Lowell struck out to end the inning.

Back came the Cardinals again, with Yadier Molina ripping a solo homer to left off Hideki Okajima to make it a 5-3 game in the top of the eighth.

"There are always going to be some missed opportunities," said Lugo. "It's impossible to score every time. We're playing well. We just lost the game today. We've been winning series. That's all that matters right now."

Ramirez was also unable to come through in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, striking out looking on a changeup from Lohse.

"I'm going to take my chances all the time with Manny," said Lugo.

Chances weren't the issue on this night. The Red Sox had a lot of them. They just couldn't cash in.

"Actually, when any of our guys are up, we always feel like we're going to win," Francona said. "Until our final out tonight, with Youk hitting there, I thought we were going to win until we lost."

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