Caption: KC RF Rick Ankiel was left holding just his bat handle after his eighth inning showdown with Sox fireballer Daniel Bard. Unfortunately, Ankiel flared a base hit into left-center field on this swing to deliver the game-tying and game-winning runs in KC's 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Red Sox.
For the second consecutive ballgame a Red Sox starter pitched an outstanding ballgame, and for the second consecutive game a left-handed reliever left a runner in scoring position to be cleaned up by fireballer Daniel Bard, and for the second consecutive contest the young righty was unable to get the job done.
And so, for the third straight game, the bullpen took the loss in a Red Sox defeat as The Olde Towne Team dropped the first road game of the season, 4-3, in Kansas City.
On Wednesday, starter John Lackey left the game with a 1-0 lead only to watch as left-hander Scott Schoeneweis allowed a double and Bard surrendered a game-tying base hit. This evening, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was outstanding in his first start of the year, yet he watched as Hideki Okajima gave up a leadoff double in the eighth inning and Bard surrendered the game-winning, broken bat single with two outs.
Wakefield held the Royals to two runs on six hits and one walk in seven innings pitched. He was unscored upon except for consecutive pitches in the sixth inning, when he surrendered back-to-back home runs to 1B Billy Butler and RF Rick Ankiel. Admittedly, Wakefield was otherwise unscored upon in large part due to an excellent defensive relay from CF Mike Cameron to 2B Dustin Pedroia to C Victor Martinez that cut down Royals' DH Jose Guillen at home plate to end the fourth inning…regardless, Wakefield had the knuckler working.
The evening got off to an inauspicious start in the first inning when Jacoby Ellsbury dumped a base hit into right-center field to lead off the game, but was thrown out by a considerable amount attempting to advance to second base.
The game was scoreless until the top of the fourth inning. Kevin Youkilis led off with a single to left field and David Ortiz followed by squibbing a double down the left field line. An Adrian Beltre ground ball to second base brought home the first run. J. D. Drew then launched a LONG home run to center field that landed above the ‘batting eye’…it was officically measured at 454 feet.
Meanwhile, Wakefield had allowed a baserunner in each of the first three innings, but had set Kansas City down with relative ease. In the fourth inning, he allowed a one-out double to Ankiel, who ran into an out at third base one batter later on an ill-advised baserunning blunder. DH Jose Guillen hit a ball into the shortstop hole that momentarily handcuffed Marco Scutaro. Ankiel decided to head for third base but was easily thrown out.
With Guillen at first base, C Jason Kendall hit a long double over Mike Cameron’s head in center field, but Cameron fielded the ball quickly and fired a strike to Pedroia, who in turn made an outstanding relay throw to home plate. Martinez, who had come under some criticism for missing a swipe tag during the Yankees series, simultaneously caught the ball, blocked the plate, and tagged out Guillen (trying to score from first base on the play).
After that, neither team mustered as much as a base hit until there were two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Butker and Ankiel homered to close the deficit to a run.
The Red Sox failed to benefit from three walks issued by reliever Robinson Tejeda in the next half-inning. They were unable to capitalize, in part, because Drew was caught stealing after leading off the frame with the first of the three free passes. Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to first base for the second out of the inning…and with two runners in scoring position, Dustin Pedroia struck out to end the threat.
The offense managed a pair of base hits in the eighth inning, but righty reliever Juan Cruz struck out Martinez, Youkilis, and Drew to render the base hits useless.
Wakefield, who had retired the Royals in order in the seventh inning, was relieved by Okajima to start the fateful eighth. RF David Dejesus got things started with a double to left field…he was sacrificed to third base by LF Scott Podsednik.
Francona called on Bard to get him a strikeout and, after walking Alberto Callaspo, the big righty complied by whiffing Butler. He then got ahead of Ankiel 0-2 and then threw him a fastball out over the plate. The pitch sawed off Ankiel, who was left holding just the bat handle afterwards, but the baseball flared into left-center field for a two-run single, scoring DeJesus and pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist (who had stolen second base).
Closer Joakim Soria retired the Sox in the ninth inning to record the save for Kansas City.
Afterwards, Bard said: “They earned the win. They scraped together a couple of runs when they needed to. When you make a decent pitch, you hope you get a better result, but it doesn’t always happen.”
Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation is starting to panic. The bullpen has pitched 13.1 innings, allowing nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and eight walks. Red Sox relievers are 1-3, with a 5.50 ERA.
Royals' starter Kyle Davies was solid, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings. Lefty John Parrish earned the win after striking out the only batter he faced (Drew) to end the top of the eighth inning.
Bard (0-1) took the loss.
Ankiel had the first four-hit game of his career. He finished 4-for-4, with 4 RBI and a run scored…he had a home run and a double.