Texas stunned by furious Boston rally
Red Sox score six in ninth, deny Rangers Wild Card lead
ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder David Murphy could have been on every highlight show between here and Boston.He missed making the great leaping catch on Dustin Pedroia's deep drive in the ninth, but he started the relay that nailed pinch-runner Clay Buchholz trying to score the tying run at home plate. It was an exhilarating, eye-popping moment in a playoff atmosphere among 40,311 fans and left the Rangers just one out away from taking the American League Wild Card lead. Frank Francisco, so automatic early in the season before his health problems, didn't get that out. Instead, he suffered the worst outing of his Major League career, giving up six runs in the top of the ninth inning as the Red Sox rallied for an 8-4 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"No way in the world I thought we would lose that game after we executed that play," Murphy said, as the Rangers tried to absorb the postgame shock of having blown a 4-2 lead going into the ninth."You hate that it happened, but we just have to forget about it and get ready for tomorrow," Josh Hamilton said. Friday was only the second time the Rangers have lost a game this season when leading after eight innings, and it's the first time that's happened at the Ballpark since Sept. 20, 2007. They held on to 72 straight ninth-inning leads at home until Friday night. "That one got away," manager Ron Washington said. "We battled all night, we got to the ninth inning and had the right person out there. We were one pitch away. Before you know it, we're down four runs." It did happen that quickly, and the Rangers are now 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings. They remain 4 1/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West. "It was fun tonight, but we have to win a game like that if we're going to the playoffs," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "Every game counts right about now. But the whole game plan is to win series, so we need to come out tomorrow, win the game and put ourselves in position to win the series." The Rangers' pitching staff entered the game second in the league in team ERA, and Kevin Millwood upheld that honor by throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings. But he needed too many pitches to do it. Millwood, holding a 2-0 lead, walked Mike Lowell with two outs in the sixth, prompting a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux. At that point Millwood had thrown 110 pitches and told Maddux he was out of gas. "I was getting tired," Millwood said. "I had long innings every inning and it caught up with me. I felt the best chance for us to get out of the inning was for me to come out."
|"It was fun tonight, but we have to win a game like that if we're going to the playoffs. Every game counts right about now. But the whole game plan is to win series, so we need to come out tomorrow, win the game and put ourselves in position to win the series."|
|-- Marlon Byrd|
Eddie Guardado took over and immediately gave up a two-run home run to David Ortiz to tie the game. It's the third home run Guardado has given up in his past six appearances."Eddie just left a pitch over the plate," Washington said. "I feel confident in Eddie ... he just left a pitch over the plate. That's not why we lost." This one came down to the ninth. Francisco, who had closed out Thursday's 4-1 victory, had a two-run lead to protect. But he was also pitching on back-to-back days. Even before Friday night, Francisco's toughest outings have come in games when he pitched the day before. Coming into the game, opposing hitters had a .905 OPS against him when he had no days' rest, a .682 OPS with one day of rest and .276 with two days off. "He was still pounding the ball at 93-94 miles per hour," Washington said. "I just think it was one of those days. Frankie is not going to use [back-to-back outings] as an excuse." Ortiz started the inning with a double. Jason Varitek followed with a grounder up the middle. Second baseman Omar Vizquel made a great play going to his right and a strong throw to first, but Varitek just barely beat it out for a hit. Jacoby Ellsbury then singled up the middle to make it a 4-3 game. Francisco struck out Chris Woodward and Red Sox manager Terry Francona sent Buchholz in to pinch-run for Varitek. That's when Pedroia hit one off the left-field wall just above Murphy's leaping attempt. But Buchholz hesitated, thinking Murphy might catch the ball. Murphy did not, but he got the carom quickly and Buchholz was thrown out on a relay from Michael Young at home plate. "It was definitely off the wall and I was definitely trying to get up the wall to get it," Murphy said. "I don't know how far out of my reach it was, but I think me jumping up for it and [Buchholz being] the inexperienced baserunner, it threw him off." The Rangers were one out away. Then they were one pitch away, as Francisco jumped ahead of Victor Martinez, 1-and-2. But Martinez fouled off two straight pitches and one more after he took another ball. Martinez then jumped on a 95-mph fastball and ripped it into right field for a double that gave the Red Sox a 5-4 lead. A single by Jason Bay brought home Martinez, and a two-run home run by J.D. Drew made it a four-run lead. Jason Jennings then took over for Francisco. The six runs were the most Francisco has given up in a game. He had allowed just seven runs so far this season, and his ERA went from 2.01 to 3.66 ERA in one night. "He's my closer," Washington said. "His job is to get three outs. Once he's in the game, he's the best I have."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.