Could it be that Marco Scutaro was going to send everyone home happy, and give the Red Sox some positive vibrations en route to their six-game road trip, which starts in Toronto on Monday night?
Scutaro came to the plate with two on and two outs, down by a run, and did what he could, hitting the ball on the screws. But it was hit right at Orioles second baseman Ty Wiggington, giving the Red Sox a flat finish to a 4-6 homestand, not to mention a 7-6 loss to the 3-16 Baltimore Orioles.
"We tried to come back," said third baseman Adrian Beltre. "It wasn't enough."
In hindsight, the game was lost in the top of the seventh. With two outs in that frame and a runner on second, veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield walked off the mound with a 4-1 lead and got a big ovation from the Fenway faithful. Wakefield, who is going to the bullpen to make way for the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka, doffed his cap.
But the day fell apart immediately after Wakefield left. Hideki Okajima, who is almost always dependable, was greeted by an RBI double by Nick Markakis and a game-tying homer off the left-field foul pole by Miguel Tejada. Just like that, the game was tied, and Wakefield would not be able to notch victory No. 190 in his career.
"Well, he left a fastball up for the hit to Markakis. Then we have to make a decision and we're hoping an aggressive hitter would chase a split down and it didn't have enough depth to it," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "All of a sudden, we're tied."
But the tie was snapped a little later. On a day closer Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable, the O's broke through with a three-run rally against relievers Scott Atchison and Scott Schoeneweis in the 10th. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Schoeneweis came on to face Rhyne Hughes. The prospect, playing in just his second Major League game, came through with an RBI single to right, putting the Orioles ahead for good.
Why did Francona go with Atchison instead of Manny Delcarmen?
"Yeah, we thought about both," Francona said. "We already had Scotty up. And we had Schoeneweis behind him. We thought he would throw strikes. We didn't anticipate the inning unfolding the way it did."
Neither did Atchison, who took the loss.
"I didn't throw the ball very well," Atchison said. "I gave up a couple of hits early in the count. They got hits on two sliders and I walked a guy. They got hits. I tried attacking the zone. That's what I feel like I do best. Some days, they get hits."
Still, the Sox had one last rally in them against O's reliever Jim Johnson. Kevin Youkilis led off the bottom of the 10th with a double. With one out, J.D. Drew roped an RBI double, making it a two-run game. Adrian Beltre followed with a single and Bill Hall's RBI single put the Sox within one. But Darnell McDonald popped out and Scutaro's liner ended it.
"Johnson was out there, he had already thrown an inning and two thirds," Francona said. "He looked a little bit tired. We had good at-bats. The top of the inning, you're trying to eliminate one and we let them have multiple [runs]. We had real good at-bats. Scutaro hits the ball right on the nose with runners moving, but we had dug ourselves too big a hole."
If the Red Sox could have hung on, it would have been their fifth win in the past six games after opening the 10-game homestand by enduring a four-game sweep at the hands of the Rays.
Instead, they fell to 8-11, and 5-8 at home. Is there a tangible feeling that things just aren't right these days?
"I think if it was tangible, we'd probably grab it, choke it and spit it away. I'm pretty sure it's beyond a tangible thing," said Mike Lowell. "We're not hitting like we can, we're not pitching like we can. It's pretty simple. We just have to make adjustments to get better."
Wakefield did what he could, giving up seven hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five, throwing 108 pitches.
"I thought I threw a lot of strikes," Wakefield said. "I was able to minimize damage when they got baserunners on early and in the middle innings. I was able to make pitches when I needed to."
The Red Sox, having produced just two hits over the first five innings and trailing, 1-0, came up big in the bottom of the sixth.
Dustin Pedroia (walk) and Victor Martinez (single to right) started it. Youkilis came up with a line single to left against O's starter David Hernandez that tied the game. Baltimore went to lefty Mark Hendrickson to face David Ortiz, but the slugger delivered with an RBI single to right, putting Boston in front. Drew (sacrifice fly) and pinch-hitter Lowell (RBI double) gave Wakefield a 4-1 lead.
Few would have predicted it, but the day was about to go downhill fast.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less