The Red Sox could do nothing against young gun Brian Matusz today, who shut down the Boston offense for seven innings, avoiding the sweep with a 6-1 win over the Sox.
John Lackey pitched well enough to get the win on most nights, taking seven strikeouts and just two earned runs into the eight inning. Unfortunately, he also took 104 pitches in with him--a number which did not prompt Terry Francona to send in a bullpen to preserve a two run deficit. Neither was 110 after allowing a leadoff double to Miguel Tejada. Or 112 with runners on the corners. It took a sacrifice fly driving in the second run of the inning and effectively sealing the Red Sox' defeat on pitch 117 to convince Francona Lackey's night was done. Scott Atchison allowed a couple likely meaningless insurance runs in the ninth, but the game was given up thanks to Francona's baffling refusal to pull John Lackey.
Then again, a couple of Lackey's four runs (three earned) might have been avoided if backup-backup (backup-backup if you include Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown) catcher Gustavo Molina had kept the ball in front of him in the fourth inning. Or if Marco Scutaro had turned a routine double play instead of throwing the ball away in the eighth. But it hardly matters, because they did, and thanks to Brian Matusz, the Red Sox couldn't push any runners across until the ninth inning, when Kevin Youkilis belted his 17th homer of the season.
A disappointing loss for the Red Sox along with wins by the Rays and Yankees puts the Red Sox back to near even with the Rays and playing catch up against the Yankees. Whoever wins the Tampa - Boston series will have a good shot at entering the break with a postseason spot.