10/02/2003 5:28 PM ET
Sox suffer nightmare second
Wakefield's wildness, errors haunt Boston
OAKLAND -- The sun broke through an overcast sky in the second inning
Thursday afternoon and promptly cast a dark shadow on the Red Sox in
Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
By Jim Street / MLB.com
The AL Wild Card team needed a pick-me-up in the worst way after losing
Game 1 on a bases-loaded bunt single in the 12th inning at Network
Associates Coliseum. But what they got was a nightmarish five-run Oakland
haymaker that included a walk, passed ball, single, hit batter, double
that might have been lost in the sun's glare and an error that had
nothing to do with the weather.
The Red Sox never recovered and absorbed a 5-1 loss to the AL West
champion Athletics that sent the Red Sox back to Boston in a
two-games-to-none bind in the best-of-five series.
Blame Thursday's loss on one really bad inning.
The most productive offensive inning of the series began when Jose
Guillen worked Tim Wakefield for a walk and scooted to second when a high
knuckleball eluded Doug Mirabelli's glove for a passed ball.
Ramon Hernandez, who drove in Oakland's final run of Wednesday night's
thriller with a surprise bunt, drove in the Athletics' first run in
Game 2 with a solid single to right field. Jermaine Dye was hit with a
pitch, turning up the heat on Wakefield and the Red Sox.
Just as ninth-place hitter Eric Byrnes came to bat, the sun came out,
and moments later, Byrnes hit a ball to left field that Manny Ramirez
seemed to momentarily lose.
The ball sailed over Manny's head and caromed off the wall, bouncing
back towards the infield, allowing both runners to score and put the
Athletics ahead by three runs.
After a grounder to first base advanced the runners into scoring
position, Eric Chavez hit a hard ground ball between first and second base.
Todd Walker got to the ball, fumbled it as he fell to the ground, and
then bumbled it big-time with a wild throw past first baseman Kevin
Two runs scored and the sun slid behind the low clouds.
When the Athletics finished batting, they had scored five runs on only
two hits and left-hander Barry Zito clicked into the 2002 Cy Young
Award mode and dazzled the Red Sox hitters with sharp-breaking curveballs,
a nasty changeup and fastball that seemed faster than it really was.
That one awful second inning could have been the difference between the
Red Sox going home tied in the series and feeling confident, and going
home on the brink of "wait 'til next year" -- for the 95th consecutive
"I just couldn't stop the bleeding quick enough," said Wakefield, who
was stellar in the other five innings he pitched. "I battled as hard as
I could in that inning, but I couldn't find the strike zone."
Catching a knuckleball is the most difficult chore for a catcher.
But understanding what it does, and why it does it, also is a mystery.
Wakefield was at a loss trying to figure out why the pitch was so good
most of the game, and so unreliable in that one inning.
"Usually, my ball moves up to down," he explained, "but for some reason
in that inning, it was moving into the right-handed hitters. I can't
explain why that happened. Maybe my release point was off."
Something definitely was out of kilter, but he still could have gotten
out of the inning with one run being scored. That would have happened
if Ramirez had caught Byrnes' drive and second baseman Todd Walker had
fielded Eric Chavez's hard grounder.
"I didn't think (Byrnes) hit the ball that good," Wakefield said. "But
I made a mistake by leaving the pitch up."
Ramirez, who doesn't explain plays, at-bats or anything else to the
media, didn't comment. But center fielder Johnny Damon said it was a tough
play, made tougher by the elements.
"The sun was right in Manny's face," he said, "and there was a lot of
wind out there. This is one of the worst sun-fields in the league. I'm
not exactly sure what happened on that play, but it looked like he got
turned around a little bit."
Wakefield struck out Erubiel Durazo for the second out of the inning,
but a hard grounder to Walker went from being the third out to the
fourth and fifth runs.
"The ball didn't stay in my glove and I panicked a little bit," Walker
said. "I probably should have just held onto the ball and let one run
score. But I tried to make a play and made a bad throw."
Now, it's back home to the friendlier confines of Fenway Park. Do you
believe in miracles?
Jim Street is a reporter
for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League
baseball or its clubs.