The Red Sox were trailing by a run in the bottom of the 12th inning on Sunday when David Ortiz lined a ball toward the left-field corner. The Sox, who had come back from a five-run deficit against the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the game, had life.
The ball rolled to the wall and Ortiz tried for second base. He was out by several feet, the throw from David Lough easily beating him to the bag. The game ended five pitches later when Mike Napoli struck out and the Orioles had a 7-6 victory.
It was a play that neatly defined this season for the Red Sox in that it started out with good intentions and broke down in a hurry.
“Not at all,” Ortiz said when asked if he hesitated. “He made a good play. The ball bounced back at him.”
It was Lough, a defensive replacement, who had a triple off Edward Mujica in the top of the inning and scored the go-ahead run when J.J. Hardy singled through a drawn-in infield.
“That’s the kind of game good teams win,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
It also was the kind of game bad teams lose, which is something the Red Sox have done plenty of this season. They are 15-19 in games decided by one run and 5-8 in extra innings.
The Red Sox have lost five of six on their homestand and 11 of 16 overall to fall to 39-49. They are 10 games under .500 for the first time since finishing the 2012 season 69-93.
The loss dropped the Red Sox into last place in the division.
Don’t blame Ortiz alone. With the game tied in the ninth inning and Ortiz at the plate, Dustin Pedroia tried to steal second base. He slid too early and was tagged out. Pedroia has been caught seven times in nine attempts.
“Trying to win a game, that’s it,” Pedroia said.
Manager John Farrell defended what looked like reckless plays.
“We’re always going to err on the side of aggressiveness,” he said. “We feel that more times than not it creates an image or an attitude which we play with and hopefully creates opportunities we can take advantage of.”
Farrell also praised his players for scoring five times in the seventh inning to tie the game. But the platitudes after losses are becoming meaningless. The idea that the Red Sox could be contenders is fanciful at this point.
“We can’t talk about it. You’ve got to go do it,” Pedroia said. “We haven’t yet. We will.”
Ortiz was 4 for 5 with a walk and two RBIs and Pedroia 3 for 6. Two young players also had good days. Rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was 2 for 4 with a walk, a run, and an assortment of terrific plays in the field. Xander Bogaerts was 2 for 5, snapping his 0-for-27 streak.
Red Sox starter Jake Peavy deserved better than a no-decision. He allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits over six innings.
At a time when the Red Sox may looking to trade a starter to create an opportunity for one of their prospects, Peavy has given up three earned runs over 12 innings in his last two starts.
The Red Sox almost certainly would have to pick up some of the $6.6 million Peavy has remaining on his contract for this season, but the veteran righthander could have appeal to a contender, particularly in the National League.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” said Peavy, winless in his last 13 starts.
“I’ve been worried about my own thing and getting better. I feel like I’m getting there but losing these games, man, it’s hard.”
With the Sox trailing, 2-1, Burke Badenhop and Junichi Tazawa allowed four runs on six hits in the seventh inning.
It took Bradley making a catch in center and throwing Manny Machado out at the plate to end the inning. It was the 10th assist of the season for Bradley, the most for a center fielder in the majors.
Trailing, 6-1, the Red Sox looked cooked. But the offense came to life in the seventh inning as the Sox sent 10 batters to the plate and five scored.
David Ross started it with a long home run to center field. Singles by Bradley, Bogaerts, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava accounted for two runs.
When Pedroia struck out, Baltimore went to lefthander Brian Matusz to face Ortiz. Big Papi was 1 for 22 against Matusz in his career, but this time he grounded an RBI single into right field.
Tommy Hunter came in to face Napoli. A single to left field scored Nava. Stephen Drew had a chance to give the Red Sox the lead but he struck out for the second time in the inning.
Bradley saved Koji Uehara in the ninth inning. With a runner on first and two outs, Bradley ranged back to the warning track and made a leaping catch to steal a hit from Machado. He then crashed into the wall.
Bradley is 13 of his last 44 (.295), improving his season average to .218. He has used a more open stance in recent weeks, which has helped him hit more balls to the opposite field.
“I’m actually getting results, so I guess that’s the change,” he said.
With 74 games to go, the Red Sox are getting close to a point where developing players such as Bradley, Bogaerts, and their young pitchers may have to stand as goals.
“These losses are tough,” Bradley said. “You try to draw anything positive you can out of them.”