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The Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies began a three-game series Tuesday night at Coors Field. The Red Sox were coming off of an 8-1 homestand that saw them move into second place in the AL East, tied with Tampa Bay and just a half-game behind New York. On the hill for the Red Sox was Jon Lester, who was 8-0 in his last 11 starts coming into this game. He faced Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who had lost his most recent start despite giving up just two earned runs in five innings of work. No Boston player had ever faced Chacin before, so adjusting to his pitches mid-game would be essential.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox never were able to adjust to Chacin appropriately, as he did an excellent job of stifling Boston hitters in his 6.2 innings of work. He allowed no earned runs while striking out five. The Red Sox had few chances to score, and they failed to take advantage in those situations. In the top of the third, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs. Victor Martinez, however, grounded out to kill the scoring opportunity. The Rockies then scored in the bottom of the fifth on a Todd Helton (2-4, RBI, run scored) single.
The Red Sox came back and loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but once again the opportunity proved fruitless, as pinch-hitter David Ortiz grounded out. The 1-0 Colorado lead continued until the eighth inning, when Ryan Spilborghs, with two men on, hit a ball towards shortstop Marco Scutaro. The ball bounced over his head, and an insurance run came around to score. The Red Sox got one run back on an Adrian Beltre double and Mike Cameron RBI single, but the game ended on a grounder from Mike Lowell with the tying run on first base. The final score: Rockies 2, Boston 1. Chacin picked up the win, Lester the hard-luck loss, and Matt Belisle picked up his first save of the season.
The two big players for the Red Sox offense on Tuesday were Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron. Both collected two hits, with Beltre picking up a run and Cameron an RBI. They were key in Boston’s almost-rally in the ninth inning. Adrian Beltre’s hits extended his hitting streak to 11-games (Dustin Pedroia’s streak, meanwhile, halted at 10, though he did walk twice). These two players aside, the Red Sox offense was completely stifled Tuesday night. They left eight men on base, going just 1-5 with runners in scoring position. They also grounded into two double-plays. Chacin had his fastball and breaking ball moving well, and it kept the Red Sox hitters off-balance. All night long they were one hit away from tying or taking the lead, but that hit never came. Overall, the Red Sox offense will look back at this game as one they should’ve had.
Jon Lester did not deserve the loss. In six innings of work, he gave up just one earned run while striking out six and walking just one. Most nights of the week, that’s a winning effort. The loss really should fall to Boston’s once-again shaky bullpen. Hideki Okajima, in just two-thirds of an inning, gave up three hits, including the key single that drove in Colorado’s insurance run. While the rest of the Boston bullpen performed adequately, this one run turned out to be most costly. The bullpen must be able to keep the Red Sox in games where they are down late in the game to give the offense a chance. Boston would’ve at least tied the game with their ninth-inning rally had it not been for Okajima’s inability to pitch Tuesday night. He is nowhere near the All-Star he was three years ago and he needs to step his game up this season.
The only plus from this game was that other Boston bullpen pitchers, such as Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen, are proving they can be effective. The Red Sox will need more than two relievers that they can rely on if they’re going to go anywhere this season (and possibly postseason). This will be especially evident at National League parks, where starting pitchers will often come out earlier for pinch-hitters than they would in American League parks (which is exactly what happened Tuesday night).
This game came down to a combination of solid Colorado pitching and blown Boston opportunities. The Red Sox, or at least the lineup they sent out Tuesday night, did not look equipped to function as a National League offense. They will need to figure out how to score in NL parks if they want to keep or advance their place in the AL East standings during this upcoming road trip.
On Wednesday night, they will face Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Scoring opportunities will be hard to come by, so it will be essential for the Red Sox to take advantage of any such opportunities presented to them. Hopefully they will. If they can’t, they will likely be looking at their first series loss in quite some time.