Buchholz bows out early in opener
Righty allows eight runs in 4 2/3; Manny has defensive lapse
ANAHEIM -- It was a play that will undoubtedly live on in Manny Ramirez's defensive blooper reel, this triple by Maicer Izturis in the bottom of the sixth inning of Friday night's 11-3 loss to the Angels that should have been a single.
One day, the Red Sox might be able to laugh at the pure ugliness of it. But on this night, too much frustration had already mounted.
The Red Sox ended their All-Star break with a disjointed defeat. Clay Buchholz struggled mightily, being pounded for eight hits and eight runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings.
"I thought I made a couple of good pitches," said Buchholz. "Fell behind to a couple of hitters, left some pitches up. They got hit hard. I walked a batter. He scored. That seems like the story of the year for me. If I walk somebody, they're going to score. It looked sort of bad on the line score. But at the same time, I felt like I threw a lot of good pitches. I guess the bad ones outweighed the good ones."
There were a pair of defensive miscues, one by shortstop Alex Cora in the fifth that led to four unearned runs, and then the infamous play by Ramirez an inning later in which no error was charged.
It might not be quite up there with the 2004 play in which Ramirez cut off a throw from fellow outfielder Johnny Damon on what turned out to be an inside-the-park homer, but it was close.
With Chone Figgins on third and one out, Izturis hit a fly ball to left that Ramirez got a bad jump on. Trying to make something out of nothing, Ramirez made a desperation dive, coming nowhere close to catching it. Instead, the ball bounced behind Ramirez, who then stumbled in reverse before tumbling on top of the ball. By the time Ramirez figured out that the baseball was under his backside, Izturis had scooted into third to give the Angels a 9-3 lead.
"I think I made the bloopers for life," said Ramirez.
Realizing the oddity of what had just occurred, Ramirez couldn't help but smile once the play was over.
"It was like I was swimming in a swamp right there," said Ramirez.
What exactly happened on the play?
"I just got a bad jump right there and I missed the ball and that was it," said Ramirez.
It was the most glaring lowlight in a rough night for the Red Sox, who fell back into second place, a half-game behind the Rays.
Buchholz got into trouble right away, throwing 37 pitches in a three-run first inning.
"It seems like I get the first batter out most of the time and it sort of snowballs from that," said Buchholz, now 2-5 with a 5.88 ERA. "I left some pitches up to a couple of guys and gave up a couple of extra-base hits and that led to three runs."
The Red Sox had some bounce-back to them early, with Kevin Youkilis blasting a two-run homer to left in the second and Ramirez adding a towering solo shot to right in the fourth against Angels ace John Lackey to tie it up.
"That first inning, [Buchholz] threw 37 pitches and that's a long inning," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I thought his stuff in the first inning was a little bit flat. I thought he held it together there and actually started throwing the ball pretty good. Youk hits the ball and then Manny follows it up. We've got a tie game and we're showing some life."
However, Boston's momentum was short-lived as it was all Angels for the rest of the night. Garret Anderson led off the bottom of the fourth with a homer to right, putting the Angels back in front.
"One advantage to hitting down in the order is I'm able to come to the clubhouse and watch the first inning, see what the guy is trying to do," said Anderson. "It looked like Buchholz was trying to establish his fastball early in counts, and when he tried to sneak a fastball middle in on me, I was able to get through it. With some early runs, Lackey was able to relax and throw strikes. It allowed him to settle in and put up zeros."
Things began to go south for good in the fifth, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, Torii Hunter hit a soft grounder to Cora. Trying to make a quick throw to end the inning, Cora instead bobbled the ball and everybody was safe. Anderson (RBI single) and Howie Kendrick (two-run single) made it a five-run lead.
"I just charged it. It was a do-or-die play," said Cora. "I just missed it. It was one of those balls, you want to make sure when you charge it, it's to your left. But it was too my right and I lost it."
And nobody could have felt worse about it than Cora.
"You have to make that play," Cora said. "It changed the whole game."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.