Two days away from boarding up Fenway Park after another misbegotten summer, the Red Sox aren’t letting the few remaining grains in the hourglass slip away without a struggle.
Winner in its last at-bat each of the previous two nights, Boston did something last night never before done by an Olde Towne Team: Down three runs after Albert Belle’s grand slam off Tom Gordon in the top of the ninth, newcomer Curtis Pride and rookie Scott Hatteberg hit pinch home runs in the bottom of the inning, the first time in Red Sox annals they’ve hit two pinch home runs in an inning -- and only the 14th time it’s been accomplished in major league history.
Pride, the deaf outfielder who played for the Expos and Tigers before signing as a free agent with Boston three weeks ago, became the first player since Rob Deer in 1993 to homer in his first Red Sox at-bat.
The Red Sox wound up losing to the White Sox, anyway, 5-4, in 10 innings when Frank Thomas punched a two-out single through the right side off Mark Brandenburg. Even after that, the Red Sox put the tying run on base on Wilfredo Cordero’s single in the bottom of the 10th.
It wasn’t safe for the crowd of 27,647 to go home until Reggie Jefferson grounded into a game-ending double play.
Jefferson, who went hitless in five at-bats, is now 0 for 23 and has dropped to .320 overall.
The laid-back DH insisted he hasn’t been pressing during his slump.
``I went up there with a 2-and-0 count, took a swing, and beat the ball in the ground,’’ Jefferson said. ``If I was pressing, I probably would have swung at the first pitch, even if it were bad. If things were going my way, I probably would have gotten a double off the wall.’’
For the better part of the night, things were going all Butch Henry’s way. The lefthander’s fourth start since he came back from elbow reconstruction two years ago was one of the best by any Red Sox pitcher this season: 7 2/3 shutout innings, five hits, all singles, no walks. Through seven innings, Henry faced just one batter over the minimum.
Gordon replaced Henry with two on and two out in the eighth and struck out Jorge Fabregas on three pitches to protect a 1-0 lead fashioned by first-inning doubles by Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn.
But on the verge of ringing up his 10th save in 10 opportunities, Gordon turned Slocumbesque for the first time since he inherited the closer role. A single and two walks loaded the bases for Belle, who deposited a 1-and-0 pitch into the screen, just below the Coke bottles.
``He has a heartbeat, just like the rest of us,’’ manager Jimy Williams said of Gordon, who wanted to pitch Belle away but left his fastball over the plate, waist high.
The slam was Belle’s fourth of the season, a White Sox record, and his 29th home run was one more parting gift than Gordon wanted.
``He gave me a bat and two balls before the game,’’ Gordon said. ``Me, Bo Jackson, and Albert were in instructional league together, and I think we were the only two guys [Belle] talked to. Everybody else thought he was crazy.
``I thought he was losing his mind, too. I thought he was going to hit me.’’
They’ve remained friends, though that didn’t keep Belle from laying some wood on Gordon last night. The final blow to the Red Sox was administered by Thomas, a Big Hurt even if it came in a small dose. The loss went to newcomer Derek Lowe, who had set down five straight before a two-out single in the 10th by Ray Durham, a stolen base, and a walk.
``In a way, losses like this are harder to take because of the way we came back,’’ Lowe said after a defeat that assures the Red Sox, 38-41 at home, of their first losing season on Yawkey Way since 1983 (not counting strike-shortened 1994).
Lowe will learn soon enough that around here, such losses are not lacking for company.