BOSTON -- In possession of the longest scoreless streak by any pitcher in the American League this season, Daniel Bard was bound to have a letdown at some point. It just happened to occur with the game on the line Monday night at Fenway Park.
Then again, pitching at critical junctures is what Bard's job is. So not long after Bard's 26 1/3-inning string of shutout frames was abruptly halted on a two-run homer to right by Asdrubal Cabrera that snapped a tie, Red Sox manager Terry Francona pulled the plug on his righty, who wound up taking the loss in Boston's 9-6 defeat to the Indians.
"He's going to give up runs at some point," Francona said. "That's why we took him out -- so we can get him right back out there tomorrow. Not waste his pitches when we're down. Again, same thing, he tried to get a slider under the lefty and didn't quite get it there."
So with Francona limiting Bard to 20 pitches, the power righty will be ready to take the ball again Tuesday, should the same situation present itself.
"For sure," Bard said. "Start a new streak tomorrow. I don't care about it. It went longer than I probably ever expected it could. I'm about helping the team win, and tonight I didn't do that. Streak or no streak, I've just got to move forward."
The homer was Cabrera's second of the night. Originally, it was ruled a single, with Jason Kipnis going from first to third. But the umpires correctly reversed the call after reviewing it on television.
"Apparently it hit a lady in the knee," Bard said. "So from my view on the mound, I thought it stayed in the park, but apparently they got it right."
With the loss, the Red Sox saw their lead in the American League East over the Yankees sliced to one game. The rivals square off on Friday for the start of what should be a riveting three-game series.
As for Bard, his streak had stretched back to May 27, covering 25 outings.
"I don't think he even thinks about the scoreless streak and all that stuff," said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who belted a game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. "Tonight, he still had good stuff. They were just able to do something. Like I said, he's been great. So it's very surprising. But at the same time, it happens."
The only pitcher in the Majors who had a longer streak than Bard this season is Phillies lefty Cliff Lee, who fired 34 straight scoreless innings from June 11-July 3.
Since 1974, the only longer scoreless streak by a Boston pitcher was Bob Stanley, who reeled off 27 1/3 scoreless innings from July 29-Sept. 1, 1980.
Bard was charged with three runs, as the batter he walked -- Carlos Santana -- scored after he left the game. Before Bard's entrance, it had been a see-saw game.
"We fight everybody, no matter who's throwing," said Cabrera. "We're going to have a good approach, swing at strikes, and try to score."
John Lackey started for the Red Sox, giving up eight hits and five runs over 6 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out five.
"I felt really strong," Lackey said. "Started off well, my arm felt good. I was locating well, and really established in pretty well on some left-handers. I'm disappointed that I made a couple mistakes later on that kind of cost me. I felt that I had better stuff and felt better than to give up that many runs, for sure."
Amid the warm, sticky air, the ball flew around Fenway. After a leadoff single by Adrian Gonzalez in the third bumped his hitting streak to 11 games, Kevin Youkilis ripped a blast off the wall in center for an RBI triple.
Youkilis tried to score on the play when the throw to third base skipped by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. But the Indians recovered nicely on the play, with pitcher Josh Tomlin retrieving the ball and firing to catcher Santana for the out. Later in the inning, Carl Crawford hammered a 380-foot solo shot to right that gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead.
In this game, leads didn't seem to mean much. The Indians got one back in the fourth on a fielder's-choice RBI grounder by Kosuke Fukodome. And in the sixth, they got back-to-back homers against Lackey -- a two-run shot by Cabrera and a solo blow by Travis Hafner -- to forge back in front at 5-3.
With Crawford serving as the table-setter this time -- he cracked a double to center -- Saltalamacchia came up with his equalizer, a shot down the line in right.
"I hit it on the good part of the bat," Saltalamacchia said. "I didn't even feel it off the bat and the bat kind of broke. Luckily, we're in Fenway, and it hit the corner there and kept going."
From there, however, the momentum went to the Indians.