BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16: Cody Ross #7 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after striking out to end the inning as Jose Molina #28 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates the win on April 16, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 1-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Some days when you lose you can just tip your hat to the other team, or acknowledge how terrible yours was. Other times--days like today--you leave feeling like perhaps things should have been the other way around.
At least for myself, those games are the ones where things that are largely out of the control of the men who take the field decide the outcome. Bunches of line drives that head directly for opposing fielders and weak bloopers that drop in against your team, or a ground rule double that, had it caught the wall and stayed in, would have scored the winning run are good examples of this. The most common ones, however, seem to be managing decisions and umpiring mistakes, and today that's what killed the Red Sox
Daniel Bard had something of a mixed bag of a day. After starting with a 1-2-3 first inning, Bard would give up a runner in every subsequent inning, mostly by way of the walk. Struggling to command his fastball, Bard would give up four free passes from the second to the sixth, but didn't really seem to be in much danger at any point in time.
Things would only go bad for Boston come the seventh, when Daniel Bard's pitch count rose up over 100, and Bobby Valentine fell asleep at the wheel. While he would get through the first two outs nice and easy, with Sean Rodriguez at the plate Bard began to fall apart. Falling behind Rodriguez 3-0, Bard would eventually offer up his fifth free pass of the game. Desmond Jennings also go ahead in the count before dropping a flare into the outfield for a single, and with Valentine still refusing to leave his post in the dugout, Carlos Pena was given the opportunity to watch four pitches go by for Bard's sixth walk.
Now, with the bases loaded, surely someone was going to make their way in from the bullpen, right? Not so. In a shocking decision, Valentine still refused to make a move. The result was entirely predictable, as Daniel Bard threw four straight balls, not really getting particularly close, and giving the Rays a free run.
Justin Thomas would get the Sox out of the inning, and with the help of Matt Albers, the Sox entered the bottom of the ninth still down by just one run. There, they once again made a last-gasp push for a win, with Dustin Pedroia drawing the one-out walk and moving to second on Adrian Gonzalez' ground ball out. The Rays would elect to walk the winning run, sending David Ortiz to first and bringing Cody Ross to the plate, and that's when Larry Vanover made himself known. Fernando Rodney would throw five pitches to Cody Ross, and not one of them would be in the zone--only one was particularly close. But Vanover would not be deterred--he would not chance having the game go to extra innings. Three of the five, he decided, were going to be strikes, and so the game ended on a 5-0 strikeout.