This one is hard to take. All the much more for what it might mean for our year.
Leading 2-1 in the seventh inning, Terry Francona brought in Daniel Bard. There was some hope that this was a sign that Francona had managed to finally look beyond traditional bullpen roles and would use Bard and Papelbon to deal with the stronger part of the lineup, letting Atchison or someone else pitch to the weak end of the lineup in the ninth inning.
It was not to be. Instead, after leaving Bard in to give up a bloop single to start the eighth, Francona inexplicably turned to Hideki Okajima. That's right, 5.34 ERA Hideki Okajima. The results were absolutely predictable. Justin Smoak singled on the first pitch he saw, then Okajima hesitated on a sacrifice bunt allowing Casey Kotchman to reach. A Michael Saunders single put the Mariners up 3-2 before Okajima failed to make a play on yet another sacrifice bunt. By the time all was said and done, Okajima had allowed five hits, an inherited run, and two of his own to leave the score at 4-2. Only a quick 3-2 double play kept the inning so short.
Should the Red Sox have scored more? Yes. Should they have more options in the pen? Also yes. But this was absolutely a failure of management--the kind we have seen far too often this year. Francona had Atchison warming up to go into the sixth, but instead of using the more reliable reliever, he turned to one of the biggest gas cans on the team. Terry Francona managed the Red Sox out of the game, and with the Sox down five just six days before the deadline, perhaps out of the season.