Two big homers from Josh Hamilton proved too much for the Red Sox to overcome Friday night as they fell to the Texas Rangers 7-4.
Steven Wright had a tough act to follow on the mound after Eduardo Rodriguez' dominant performance from Thursday night. But if he couldn't live up to the high standards set before him, he was at least his usual solid knuckleballing self. His one great weakness, obviously, was the aforementioned Hamilton. After a 1-2-3 first, it was Hamilton who drove in the game's first run, preying on a knuckleball that arced perfectly into his wheelhouse and slamming it over the wall in right for a solo shot. It was the same story in the fourth inning. The pitch was slightly higher, but it was hit just as hard to the same part. Wright just could not get Hamilton out.
Usually when a knuckleball pitcher gives up two homers, it's part of a disaster night. But that really wasn't the case for Wright on Friday. A leadoff double in the third had turned into another run in between Hamilton's blasts, coming in to score on a wild pitch--another part of the bargain when dealing with a knuckleball pitcher. But Wright limited the damage by allowing just one free pass and few hits besides those three that really hurt him. He was pulled in the sixth with Josh Hamilton coming up to bat and three runs allowed. Not an outstanding night, no, but serviceable, which is all the Red Sox are really asking from him.
And for once, the Red Sox lineup was actually up for a bit of a fight. Enough so that they would've been able to overcome just those three runs. After seeing a couple one-out singles go for naught in the third, the Red Sox put together a sustained rally in the fourth, combining a couple base hits and a walk and taking advantage of an errant throw from Yovanni Gallardo to score a pair. It could have been more, too, had Rusney Castillo not grounded into a double play with runners at the corners to end the inning. Castillo would repeat the act in the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk from Blake Swihart.
The Red Sox would rally again in the eighth, but by that point, the Rangers had already piled another pair of runs on against an ineffective Alexi Ogando. Craig Breslow would allow the single that brought home the second of Texas' two seventh inning runs, then after Hanley Ramirez went deep for the second straight night to pull the Red Sox within one, proceeded to allow three baserunners in the process of recording two outs--both on the one double play--before giving way to Matt Barnes, who allowed the back-breaking double that put the game out of reach with just three outs to go.
It's the same lament as always: if it isn't one thing, it's another. A decent start, some decent offense, and terrible relief pitching. The one weak link is enough to cost the Red Sox the game when the stronger links aren't particularly impressive in their own right.