BOSTON -- If the Red Sox had even an adequate Josh Beckett performance on Wednesday afternoon or a bullpen that was remotely fresh, they likely would have departed for a 10-game road trip with a win.
But on a day the offense kept coming, it still wasn't enough as Boston fell to the Rangers, 10-9, in the rubber match of a three-game series.
Another disappointing homestand ended with a 4-6 record, and the Red Sox know they'll have to do better than that on their upcoming road trip if their postseason hopes are going to remain realistic.
"Any loss at this point is tough," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We have to try to find a way to turn the page and have a great road trip."
The journey starts in Cleveland against the struggling Indians for four games, followed by three games each against two teams the Red Sox are chasing in the standings: the Orioles and Yankees.
Beckett put the Red Sox in a hole throughout his outing, giving up eight hits and eight runs over five-plus innings. Making his first start since July 31, when he had to exit with a back spasm, Beckett walked two and struck out two.
"My back felt good," said Beckett. "I just didn't need pitches down the middle of the plate. Everything was up. Even when I was on the corners, it was still up."
Beckett has a 5.97 ERA. The 55-57 Red Sox are 15-27 in games started by Jon Lester and Beckett, who were penciled in as one of the best 1-2 combos in the American League when the season started.
"It's an uphill battle right now for everybody. We're trying our butts off as a team to win ballgames," Pedroia said. "It's not two guys that make a team. It's 25 guys, so everybody needs to be on board to win games right now. We didn't lose today because of Josh; we didn't lose the other day because of Jon Lester. We're a team. We all got beat. We'll come out tomorrow, play as hard as we can and try to win games together."
Down 9-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox -- as they did all day -- came storming back.
With Roy Oswalt on in relief for the Rangers, Pedroia led off the seventh with a single that spun off the glove of first baseman Mitch Moreland. Adrian Gonzalez followed by drilling his third RBI double of the day. Cody Ross drew a walk, and then came the big hit, a three-run equalizer by Will Middlebrooks that hit off the Sports Authority sign beyond the Green Monster.
The blast from Middlebrooks came the day after he smoked a pinch-hit three-run homer that nearly led Boston all the way back.
"I think he's developing into a fine ballplayer," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said about Middlebrooks. "He's always confident, and we always have confidence in him."
However, the Rangers went back ahead for good on Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly to center in the top of the ninth against Alfredo Aceves.
Clayton Mortensen, who had come on in relief of Beckett with nobody out in the sixth, was still on the mound to start the ninth. The right-hander walked Elvis Andrus to open the inning and gave up a single to Josh Hamilton, who tormented Boston all day. That put runners at the corners with nobody out, and Valentine called on Aceves to try to get out of a difficult situation.
Why not start the ninth with Aceves?
|"It's tough. It'd be a lot better if we were winning two out of every three games. That's what makes it tough. These are the guys I've got to come to work with every day. It's been tough on all of us."|
|-- Josh Beckett|
"With the ninth, I figure I have an inning after Alfredo with [Andrew] Miller," Valentine said. "Everybody else was basically shut down today. I was going to try to squeeze to see if we could get Clay to get Hamilton to swing at something out of the zone, which he has [the pitches to do], and [Hamilton is] an aggressive hitter. It didn't work. It was a very short bullpen today. Mortensen did a great job."
Beltre lofted the second pitch he saw from Aceves for a sacrifice fly to left-center that was easily deep enough to get the run home. It nearly got worse, as Nelson Cruz hit a towering shot down the left-field line that would have been a two-run homer. But it was ruled foul on the field, and the umpires upheld the call after reviewing it on replay.
Beckett's season-long problem -- the first inning -- manifested again in this one. The Rangers put three on the board in their opening frame to raise Beckett's first-inning ERA to 10.42.
"I've just got to get back to work and get my fingers on top of the ball, and get the balls where they can't hit them that hard," said Beckett.
The Red Sox stormed back in the first. Pedroia reached on a two-out infield hit, then Gonzalez bashed an RBI double to right. Ross stung one off the glove of second baseman Ian Kinsler for a hit to score Gonzalez, making it a 3-2 game.
Ross tied the game with one swing, going opposite field for a solo homer to right. It was the first home run for Ross since his walk-off shot on July 19.
Instead of capitalizing on that momentum, Beckett gave it back. Moreland, the No. 9 hitter for the Rangers, led off with a solo homer that just cleared the wall in center field. With one out, Hamilton again came through with a big hit, this time a two-run homer to right that made it a 6-3 game.
"It's tough. It'd be a lot better if we were winning two out of every three games," said Beckett. "That's what makes it tough. These are the guys I've got to come to work with every day. It's been tough on all of us."
The Red Sox did all they could to get Beckett off the hook, again coming back in the bottom of the fifth. Carl Crawford led off with a triple to right. Gonzalez came through with another RBI double and scored on a passed ball to make it a one-run game.
Not for long. Valentine stuck with Beckett for the sixth, and that backfired in short order. Geovany Soto ripped a two-run homer, stretching the Rangers' lead to 8-5. That was the last pitch Beckett threw.
In a perfect world, Valentine would have taken Beckett out after five. But he didn't feel there were enough available arms to do that.
"Well, he made some good pitches -- and I guess some not-so-good pitches -- and he finished the fifth inning pretty good," Valentine said. "Just the bottom of the order, I thought he could maybe squeak one out. I sure wasn't expecting Soto to hit a home run. We were behind by a run there, and if Clay doesn't have what he gave us today, it would have been a catastrophe. He did a great job."
The Rangers provided yet another long ball in the seventh, this time a solo shot by Cruz against Mortensen.
In a slugfest like this, it's always ideal to be up last. And there was hope when Ross drilled a one-out double against Joe Nathan in the ninth. But the veteran closer struck out Middlebrooks and Ryan Lavarnway to end it.
"A lot of offense today, that's the nature of this ballpark sometimes," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young said. "Our pitchers battled, but [the Red Sox] had some good at-bats, too. It was just one of those games where you can't stop putting up runs."