After an exhilarating Saturday at Fenway — from the heartwarming pregame tribute to the Boston Marathon tragedy to the late-game heroics by Daniel Nava — Sunday was a letdown.
The Red Sox dropped a doubleheader to the Kansas City Royals (4-2 and 5-4 in 10 innings) in what was their worst day of the 2013 season.
The two games came down to a few plays.
In Game 1, Salvador Perez’s line-drive single to center that scored two runs in the fourth inning was just out of shortstop Stephen Drew’s reach. Scouts at the game believed the demoted Jose Iglesias, whom Drew replaced, would have made the play because of his superior range. The Red Sox had the bases loaded in the eighth, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia tapped back to the pitcher on a 2-and-0 count to end the threat.
In Game 2, Koji Uehara, unscored upon in eight previous appearances this year, coughed up Boston’s 4-3 lead in the eighth inning when Billy Butler sent a 1-and-1 slider over the wall in left-center to tie the game. Then in the 10th, Andrew Miller walked Lorenzo Cain on four pitches with the bases loaded to force in the winning run.
Mike Napoli, who had three hits in the nightcap, sent a long fly ball to deep center in the ninth inning with two men aboard, but it stayed in the ballpark.
“Unfortunately, that last at-bat where he squares the ball up to the track in center field creates somewhat of a picture of this entire day, where we miss a couple of opportunities when we had men in scoring position. And that was the difference in the two games today,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
The sweep ruined a couple of streaks and events. For one, Boston’s seven-game winning streak ended. And when Ryan Dempster allowed four runs in his seven innings of work in Game 1, it ended a streak of 16 games in which a Red Sox starter allowed three or fewer runs.
The Red Sox’ inability to hold the lead in Game 2 spoiled the major league debut of Allen Webster, who pitched six strong innings. He allowed five hits and three runs (two earned), including solo homers by George Kottaras and Alex Gordon in the fifth inning, but left the game with a 4-3 lead. Webster struck out five and walked just one.
In the 10th, Miller allowed a single to Gordon, a walk to Alcides Escobar, and an infield single to Eric Hosmer to load the bases with two outs. He then threw four straight balls to Cain.
“Got to be more aggressive in the strike zone,” Miller said. “I’m not doing my job. I felt way better tonight than the other night. I felt good tonight. My stuff is there. Generally I was ahead of guys except for those two hitters. I walked a guy on four pitches. I have to work on it. I didn’t execute and didn’t do my job.”
Webster, 23, learned he can dominate some major league hitters with his exceptional repertoire. He also learned he can’t leave pitches over the plate, no matter how hard he throws.
Webster, one of two pitching prospects (along with Rubby De La Rosa) acquired in last summer’s salary dump with the Dodgers, coughed up a 3-1 lead, but the Red Sox pulled ahead, 4-3, on Napoli’s RBI single in the fifth.
The first pitch Webster threw — a 95-mile-per-hour fastball — was stung off the left-field wall by Gordon. Escobar then reached on an infield hit to shortstop, and Pedro Ciriaco committed the Sox’ first infield error of the season when he overthrew first base, allowing Gordon to score. Webster got the next three batters.
“I wasn’t expecting a first-pitch swing,” said Webster, who returned to Pawtucket after the start — he was called up as the 26th man, which is allowed in doubleheaders. “But it happens. It was good to get my feet wet. Once he [Gordon] got on second I had to make my pitches and go from there.”
While appearing to have dominating stuff, one criticism of Webster is he tends to throw too much over the plate. That was the case on the homers by Kottaras (92-m.p.h. fastball) and Gordon (96-m.p.h. fastball).
What did Webster learn?
“If you miss your spots, you’re gonna pay for it,” he said. “Two home runs, so I paid for it.”
The Red Sox rebounded with two runs in the second. Napoli led off the inning with his third homer, a bomb over the Green Monster. He has 20 RBIs in 18 games.
Mike Carp, getting the start in left field, doubled in Saltalamacchia. The hit for Carp was his fifth in as many plate appearances.
In the third, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled off the left-field wall and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s single to give the Sox a 3-1 lead.
In Game 1, Dempster gave up a solo homer to Escobar in the first and ran into more trouble in the fourth, when he allowed three runs.
“I thought he pitched with equal effectiveness as he has in previous starts this year,” Farrell said. “They bunched those four hits in that fourth inning and after that, the difference in today’s game was one swing by Perez on a 1-1 slider, as opposed to our eighth inning when we had the bases loaded and had the chance to create something on our part.”
Farrell noted the aggressive nature of the Royals hitters, who had the right approach by swinging early in the count.
A few Sox players struggled in both games. Will Middlebrooks went 0 for 5 in the nightcap and 1 for 9 on the day. He is in a 3-for-39 skid.
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m just [mad] that we lost by one run and that I had a chance to win the game.”
Farrell said he won’t run away from Drew, who struck out three times in his four at-bats and is in a 3-for-30 slump, or Saltalamacchia, who went 1 for 8 on the day and is hitting .208.
The Red Sox played without Shane Victorino, who was nursing a sore back, and in Game 2 they were unable to use David Ortiz for fear of risking inflammation returning to his heels. Ortiz had three hits in Game 1.
In the sixth, Ortiz doubled with one out down the right-field line off Royals starter Ervin Santana. But the Red Sox were unable to capitalize as Napoli flied to right and Saltalamacchia struck out to end the threat.
It was that kind of day.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.