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May 29, 2008
BY SEAN McADAM
Journal Sports Writer
SEATTLE – If the Red Sox have any designs on winning on the road this season, maybe they should first concentrate on hitting on the road. Either way, they haven’t been doing much of either of late.
Losing for the ninth time in the last 10 road games, the Red Sox were blanked by the Seattle Mariners last night, 1-0, leaving them 1-5 through the first two stops of this three-city road trip.
Two of the five losses have come in shutouts. In those two games, the Sox combined for just three hits. In the six road games in the last week, the Sox are now hitting a not-so-robust .169. They’ve scored just 14 runs in those six games for an average of 2.2 runs, less than half of their season average of 4.98 per game.
Tim Wakefield made his best start of the season, allowing just five hits in eight innings while striking out a season-high eight and walking no one. But one of the five hits was a solo homer in the third to No. 9 hitter Yuniesky Betancourt, and that was the difference.
Erik Bedard limited the Sox to two hits over seven innings – both singles, and both in the fourth inning. The Sox didn’t collect another hit after the fourth.
"Bedard’s stuff was great," said manager Terry Francona, "but so was Wakefield’s. He left one ball up that carried out of the ballpark. Other than that, he was spectacular and we didn’t do anything to help him."
Wakefield, who has just one win since April 20, had allowed 17 earned runs in his previous 14 innings before last night. But some between-start fine-tuning corrected a mechanical problem and he was almost flawless.
"I felt a lot better than my last start," said Wakefield, who fell to 3-4. "I was able to control the strike zone better. I stayed back (in his delivery) a little more, allowing my arm to travel through the slot a little easier. I made some adjustments mechanically and it paid off. Obviously, it showed with the (improved) command of my knuckleball."
After the homer, Wakefield retired 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced and allowed just three more hits the rest of the way. But the offensive support he needed never materialized.
The Sox never got a baserunner past second base, but, thanks to some walks, had their opportunities. They stranded seven runners, including at least one in each of the final three innings.
In the eighth, with Bedard out of the game, J.D. Drew worked a leadoff walk against Brandon Morrow. But for the second night in a row, Julio Lugo’s late-inning bunt try was pushed too hard and Drew, the lead runner, was cut down at second on a fielder’s choice.
With closer J.J. Putz on in the ninth, Manny Ramirez worked a one-out walk and Sean Casey joined him two batters later, giving the Sox the potential tying run in scoring position and the potential go-ahead run at first.
But Putz got Coco Crisp to roll out to second to finish things.
"It’s a combination of things," said Dustin Pedroia when asked to explain the team’s offensive dip. "The strike zone’s been a little bigger and some pitchers have been throwing the ball well. I don’t know – we weren’t in two good hitter’s parks (Oakland and here). Just one of those things, I guess."
Though the Sox were held hitless in eight of the nine innings, Francona said his lineup "made Bedard work hard (109 pitches in seven innings). We just didn’t have anything to show for it."
Francona, too, cited some of the pitchers the Sox have seen to date, including Oakland’s Rich Harden and Seattle's Bedard and Felix Hernandez, as one of the reason’s for the team’s collective cooling off at the plate.
"They’ve been pounding the strike zone and working ahead," he said of the opponents. "They’ve done a good job against us."
In the meantime, the Sox have fallen 1 1/2 games behind the front-running Tampa Bay Rays, with four more road games awaiting, beginning tomorrow in Baltimore, where the Sox were 0-2 in a visit just two weeks ago.
A return home to Fenway Park seemingly can’t come soon enough.
But first, comes a day off on the schedule.
"Those are always good to have," said Pedroia. "It will be nice to step away."
Posted by Sean McAdam at 1:22 AM | Permalink