The Red Sox acted decisively Monday, firing pitching coach Bob McClure and scheduling left fielder Carl Crawford for season-ending elbow surgery.
When they gathered at Fenway Park Tuesday to face the Los Angeles Angels, manager Bobby Valentine unveiled a lineup that had Jacoby Ellsbury batting third for the first time in his career.
Pedro Ciriaco, a castoff from the Pirates who has emerged as a viable player, hit leadoff and Daniel Nava was activated off the disabled list to be the designated hitter.
They were the moves of a team buried in the standings but still trying to salvage something of the season.
However well intentioned the changes were, they did not accomplish much as the Angels beat the Sox, 5-3, before an announced crowd of 37,794.
Mark Trumbo’s long two-run homer in the fifth inning off Aaron Cook decided the game. The shot also may have ended Cook’s tenure in the rotation.
As Cook allowed 11 hits and saw his earned run average climb to 4.79 Daisuke Matsuzaka was down the road in Pawtucket throwing seven shutout innings in his latest minor league rehabilitation start.
Matsuzaka gave up one hit, walked four and struck out seven. He started the eighth inning but came out after issuing two walks.
Matsuzaka threw 102 pitches and would appear ready to come off the disabled list.
Could that be to start on Sunday in place of Cook against the Royals?
“Much too early to figure that one out, Valentine said. “See Dice tomorrow and see how he feels and talk it over with everyone.”
Cook (3-7) isn’t too concerned.
“Nope, not one bit,” he said. “It’s not my decision. I’m just going to take the ball and throw it when they tell me.”
The Angels got their offense revved up in the third inning against Cook when rookie MVP candidate Mike Trout singled to center.
Because Trout came into the game with 38 stolen bases, Cook paid close attention to him at first. But a pickoff throw went wild and Trout took second.
Cook was annoyed at himself because the throw to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez broke like one of his pitches.
“I crossed him up,” he said.
Trout then scored his 97th run of the season (in 100 games) when Albert Pujols singled to center.
The Angels scored twice more in the fourth inning, collective consecutive singles by Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, Chris Iannetta, and Trout. Aybar and Iannetta drove in the runs.
Cook returned to the mound for the fifth inning trailing, 3-0. Kendry Morales had a one-out single before Cook left a 91-mile-per-hour sinker high in the strike zone to Mark Trumbo. The big left fielder hammered it over everything in left field.
“He hit it about as hard as you can hit a baseball,” Cook said.
Said Angels manager Mike Scioscia: “That ball was absolutely killed.”
Trumbo, who has 30 home runs, arrived at Fenway in a 14-for-72 slump. He was 2 for 4 with the memorable home run.
“I always try to drive the ball,’’ said Trumbo. “Maybe my swing was a little overaggressive, but I tried to tone it down a little bit. My biggest thing is if I get a pitch to hit, I don’t want to miss it.”
Cook finished the inning, but that was the end of his night.
The game was the first of six the Sox will play against the Angels over a 10-day span.
A four-game losing streak dropped Los Angeles into third place in the American League West. But the Angels started the day only four games out in the wild card race.
Los Angeles played like a team with something on the line, Scioscia using four relievers to get the final eight outs. Starter Ervin Santana (7-10) was the winner with Ernesto Frieri picking up his 15th save.
Santana came into the game with a lofty 5.59 ERA. But he allowed only two runs on five hits over 6⅓ innings. He walked two and struck out four.
He lost his shutout with two outs in the sixth inning when Cody Ross drew a walk and Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove a high fastball over the short wall in right field for his 21st homer.
“It felt good to have a ball fall in, per se, especially one that put a couple of runs on the board, try to get us going,” Saltalamacchia said.
But that was about the extent of the offense for the Sox. Scott Podsednik doubled off Jordan Walden in the seventh inning, advanced on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
With Crawford gone, David Ortiz still on the disabled list with a strained Achilles’ tendon, and Will Middlebrooks probably done for the season with a broken hand, the Sox have limited firepower. They were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
The Sox have lost nine of their last 13 games and are an unimaginable 29-35 at home.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.