Red Sox stymied by Holland in defeat
Varitek, pitchers victimized by Rangers for eight stolen bases
ARLINGTON -- Terry Francona kept sending Brad Penny to the mound on Saturday night, doing so until he thought his pitcher had nothing left to give.
"He gave us every single thing he had," Francona said. "They made him work. He gave every ounce of what he had; 5 2/3 [innings], that was enough. He was around the plate all night. They did a good job making him work."
Penny threw 121 pitches against the Rangers in a 7-2 loss at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The loss trims the Red Sox's lead over the Rangers to a half-game in the American League Wild Card race.
The Red Sox are now 2-6 against the Rangers this season. They have lost seven of their last eight on the road and are now 28-32 away from Fenway Park this season.
Penny's fourth consecutive road loss dropped him to 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA in 11 starts on the road. He struggled with his command early, needing 51 pitches to battle through the first two innings.
"He wasn't able to stay off with pitches," catcher Jason Varitek said. "We'd get strike 1, and then they'd get three balls. They'd push the count back."
Penny noticed the same thing as his catcher.
"The first two innings, I was missing by a little bit," Penny said. "My fastball was explosive. It felt good coming out of my hand. But I just had some bad breaks today."
The Rangers running roughshod was one of those. They stole a franchise-record eight bases, which was the second time that's happened against the Red Sox this season.
"I've gotta pay more attention to it," Penny said. "I've got to not rely on the coaches so much. You've got to [also] keep them from getting on base."
The other time the Red Sox allowed eight stolen bases in one game happened May 3 in a 5-3 loss to the Rays. Penny and Varitek formed the starting battery that day as well.
"You got to keep them off base," Varitek said. "I just go out there and try and execute."
The Red Sox also allowed six stolen bases on July 22 in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers. Varitek caught that day as well.
Varitek has now allowed 92 stolen bases while throwing only 15 baserunners. That means he's thrown out just 14 percent of would-be basestealers this season.
Is Varitek to blame for the Rangers running?
Running on empty
|The Red Sox have yielded eight stolen bases in two games this season. Overall, Boston has allowed baserunners to swipe a Major League-leading 118 times, with catcher Jason Varitek allowing an MLB-leading 92 of those steals.|
|Jason Varitek||Red Sox||92|
|A.J. Pierzynski||White Sox||73|
"That's not a fair statement," Francona said. "There's things we ask 'Tek to do, like if we want a strikeout and don't want him to come out of a crouch -- sometimes we'll concede a base. If you get behind, it can snowball."
The Red Sox, who were kept in check by Rangers rookie starter Derek Holland, played the entire game from behind. The Rangers scored twice in the second inning, but Jason Bay trimmed the lead in half with a solo home run in the fourth, pushing the score to 2-1.
The Rangers would score two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez responded with a solo home run that brought the score to 4-2, but the Rangers would add one more run in the seventh and two more an inning later to push the game out of reach for the Red Sox.
Tempers flared in the eighth inning when relief pitcher Fernando Cabrera hit Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler in the head.
After lying on the ground for a couple of seconds, he got up and walked to first base, exchanging words with Cabrera and Varitek.
"You have to give credit to those who earned it," Martinez said. "They executed better than us. They were doing the little things. They were stealing bases and moving them over. They did the little things right."
Penny improved as the game wore on, but it was too little, too late. He retired seven of his final eight hitters, striking out the side in the sixth inning.
"I got into a rhythm late in the game," Penny said. "I settled down and got going."
Jacoby Ellsbury stole his 53rd base of the season. That is one behind Tommy Harper, who set the franchise record (54) in 1973.
Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.