The Red Sox ran into trouble with baseball’s new replay system again Thursday and their words afterward were angry. But that was just a convenient excuse to cover up actual problems.
The Sox were beaten, 2-1, by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park because of poor situational hitting and a costly stretch of wildness by Jake Peavy. For a more efficient team, the missed replay challenge would have been insignificant.
The Red Sox were held to six hits by five Tampa Bay pitchers and stranded 11 runners on base. Peavy took the loss as the 13-15 Sox failed to get to .500.
Rays starter Cesar Ramos threw 35 pitches in the first inning and put four runners on base. But only one run scored for the inopportune Red Sox.
Dustin Pedroia drew a leadoff walk and scored after Mike Napoli walked with two outs and Jonny Gomes singled to center. Xander Bogaerts walked to load the bases but Will Middlebrooks popped up to right field.
The Rays tied the game in the third inning against Peavy when David DeJesus dropped a home run into the stands just beyond the Pesky Pole in right field.
Peavy allowed a leadoff double by Desmond Jennings in the fourth inning. A groundout moved Jennings to third base before Peavy struck out Evan Longoria with the infield in.
But Peavy could not dodge damage, walking James Loney, Wil Myers, and DeJesus to force in a run.
“That can’t happen. It just can’t happen,” Peavy said.
Peavy worked around the lefthanded hitting Loney, walking him on four pitches. He then got ahead of Myers 0-and-2 before missing on four pitches. He walked DeJesus after getting up 1-and-2 in the count.
Peavy threw 35 pitches in the first three innings then 35 in the fourth. He had not walked three consecutive batters since April 28, 2010.
“You knew the way the game was playing out a run could possibly be the game,” Peavy said. “I was trying to do everything I could do to save that run.”
Peavy did not allow another run. He left after 6⅓ innings, giving up two runs on three hits with four strikeouts and a season-high five walks.
Peavy (1-1) has a 2.87 earned run average and has struck out 36 in 37⅔ innings this season. But Thursday was the fourth time in five starts he has walked at least four batters.
“I thought he pitched another very strong outing for us,” manager John Farrell said. “The fourth inning, they pushed him. . . . You don’t think back in the fourth inning a base on balls to drive in a run is going to be the difference.”
But it was. Down, 2-1, the Red Sox had several chances to rally and missed all of them.
Shane Victorino and David Ortiz drew two-out walks off Ramos in the fifth inning, knocking him out of the game. Reliever Brandon Gomes got Mike Napoli to foul out.
Middlebrooks and pinch hitter A.J. Pierzynski singled with two outs in the sixth before Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded to second.
Then came the play that had the Sox sputtering afterward.
Pedroia led off the seventh with a single and tried to score when Ortiz doubled off the wall in center. Jennings fired the ball in quickly and shortstop Yunel Escobar made a strong relay throw to catcher Jose Molina.
First base umpire Toby Basner, who had the plate when the umpires rotated, called Pedroia out.
Farrell challenged the call, believing Pedroia got his left foot under the tag. But the call stood after a replay. When Pedroia confirmed out, third base coach Brian Butterfield slammed his helmet to the grass and Basner ejected him.
“I don’t know what inconclusive means. Maybe that means someone doesn’t want to make a decision,” Pedroia said. “We all make decisions every day. Some of them are hard and some of them are not. You’ve got to make them, though.”
Farrell thought it was clear Pedroia was safe.
“Our video internally showed that was the case,” he said. “Upon review, the call came back. It stood. . . . The mark in the dirt at home plate showed that he went across the back edge.”
Farrell was fined $2,500 by Major League Baseball for questioning the validity of the replay system last month after a disputed play during a game against the Yankees in New York.
The Sox have challenged five calls this season and been successful once. Across MLB, 45 percent of calls challenged in April were overturned.
“One for five is not a good rate,” Farrell said. “And yet we’ve got differing opinions obviously because we’re challenging the plays as it’s called on the field. . . . It’s got to be conclusive to overturn the call on the field and we see it differently.”
Farrell and Pedroia were measured in their remarks. Peavy was not.
“There’s no doubt [Pedroia was safe]. There’s no doubt,” he said. “Clearly replay . . . I don’t know. I guess it can’t be close. If it’s close, they seem to stick with the call. It’s hard for me to talk right off without absolutely going off.
“It’s extremely frustrating. We as a whole, MLB, we’ve got to get our act together because this is a joke. It’s embarrassing for fans and everybody to see. Of course he touched the plate. He slid dirt over the top of the plate and got tagged after the fact. That stinks.”
Even with the call, the Sox had Ortiz on second base and another chance to tie the fame. But Napoli struck out.
Pedroia singled off Rays closer Grant Balfour with one out in the ninth inning. Victorino tried to bunt for a hit and was thrown out at first. With first base open, the Rays pitched to Ortiz and he grounded back to the pitcher.
Gomes (2-1) was the winner with Balfour getting his fifth save.
The Sox were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. They left six runners stranded in scoring position, four in the final five innings.
“Again, I think our approach at the plate has been very consistent,” Farrell said. “We’re producing opportunities, and yet cashing in on them has been a little bit different than that. If we’re leaving 11 men on base, we’re creating opportunities.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.