In many ways this was the Red Sox' game to lose, and they certainly did so. The offense came through well enough off of a good pitcher in Mark Buehrle, as David Ortiz brought in two runs with a double in the third inning to take an early lead, and Victor Martinez again pushed the Red Sox ahead with a two run homer in the seventh. Bill Hall even added a fifth run in the eighth inning thanks to Adrian Beltre's leadoff double.
But man, this game got screwed up in a hurry.
Josh Beckett, to his credit, pitched quite well. He was a little hittable, but struck out nine batters in just over six innings, and hadn't walked anyone until the seventh.
That's when things went wrong. With 100 pitches on his arm already, Beckett came back out to start the inning, but clearly didn't have much left, giving up a four pitch walk to the leadoff man Juan Pierre. But Francona stuck with him, and after recording one more out, Beckett allowed a second four pitch walk to Alex Rios before being yanked.
In came Daniel Bard. The second out came quickly with a strikeout of Paul Konerko, but Carlos Quentin wasn't about to go down so quietly. A hard-hit ground ball came back to Bard, who threw up his glove defensively. The ball bounced towards third, Bard fired a rocket to first, and somewhere in the mix, it ended up knocked down and dribbling away from Mike Lowell. Two runs scored on the infield single.
Still, Bard was far from taxed. One pitchout lead to a caught stealing, and Bard went into the eighth inning with only ten pitches. And yet, for some reason, he was pulled for Hideki Okajima. After giving up a leadoff single and recording one out, in came Jonathan Papelbon for a five out save he was not quite up to.
The rest of the eighth went down cleanly enough. A 2-2 pitch grazed Manny Ramirez, pinch hitting for Mark Kotsay, but a strikeout and a flyout got the job done.
The ninth is where things fell apart completely. With a 5-3 lead, things looked OK for the Sox, but with two outs and a runner on second, Papelbon was gassed. On his 40th pitch, he gave up a double to Carlos Quentin. On his 41st, a game-tying single to Ramon Castro. Still, Francona left him in, leading to a walk of Alexei Ramirez.
Finally, Tito turned to the rest of the pen, but it was hardly the right time. The pressure was on, the go-ahead run was in scoring position, and Dustin Richardson and Robert Manuel could do nothing but walk guys. Three straight free passes later, and the White Sox had a 7-5 lead. The Red Sox went down in order in the ninth to finish things off.