Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Patterson’s drop sinks Red Sox

Posted by Bill Koch on July 25, 2010

Jon Lester

Losses like Saturday night’s 5-1 defeat against the Seattle Mariners are the ones that will haunt the Boston Red Sox when they are watching the postseason from the comfort of their couches in October.

The Red Sox are already in danger of slipping out of reach of the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, a sort of personal red zone that they’ve occupied since they limped to a 4-9 start through the first 13 games of the year. Losses are losses, whether they occur in April or September, and they’re starting to mount for a Boston team that is doing its best just to tread water thanks to its rash of injuries and underwhelming performances by at least a handful of pitchers on its staff.

The Red Sox dropped to 3-3 on their current road trip by wasting a brilliant performance from Jon Lester. He retired the first 16 batters he faced against Seattle’s glorified Triple-A lineup, striking out 10 of them thanks to a dominant array of overpowering fastballs, cutters, curveballs and changeups. All of that changed when Eric Patterson dropped Jack Wilson’s lazy fly ball to center field in the sixth inning, setting up a two-run homer by Michael Saunders that ultimately put Seattle in front to stay. It was Lester’s first time working from the stretch all night long and Patterson’s unthinkable mistake completely changed the tone of the game.

Where was Mike Cameron? What about Bill Hall? Did they both so desperately need the night off that This Manager had to use Patterson, a guy who had primarily played second base since being acquired by Boston, to play center in one of the league’s most spacious outfields? Safeco Field might as well be Yosemite National Park for a guy who has grown used to seeing baseballs coming at him on the ground from 110 feet away. The fact of the matter is that the Red Sox have been playing catch-up since April in the race to the American League postseason – there is no room for vacation days at this point.

Lester didn’t show any emotion when Patterson started Boston’s reversal of fortune on Saturday, a nod to the lefthander’s extreme professionalism on the mound at all times. You can bet John Lackey would have tried steer-wrestling Patterson to the ground in the middle of the diamond if something like that had happened during one of his starts. Lester just stood out there and took it like the good soldier that he is, hung out to dry into the eighth inning and forced to throw 124 pitches until being mercifully lifted after Chone Figgins slapped a run-scoring double down the right field line to make it 4-1. That was the same line that was again left unguarded by Kevin Youkilis, a mistake that we here at Ramble On pointed out from Thursday night’s game, but we digress. The fact that Lester is being allowed to rot on the mound for that many pitches on July 24 should tell you all you need to know about the confidence that This Manager has in the Boston bullpen. The collateral damage done in outings like this will catch up to Lester as the calendar turns from August to September, and the reeling Red Sox will be feeling their full effects into an offseason that will start much too soon.

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