Four runs were already in. Mike Lowell was at the plate, awaiting the pitch from an ineffective Robinson Tejeda, who had just loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning by walking David Ortiz, hitting Manny Ramírez, and walking J.D. Drew. With Josh Beckett -- a near certainty to be named to the American League All-Star team today -- on the mound, who in the crowd didn't expect a big hit in what looked to be a runaway win?
But Lowell sent a fly ball to left field, where Frank Catalanotto caught it in front of the warning track. And, despite that four-run lead after two, Beckett found himself finished after five innings, done in by a mess of a fourth inning that put the Texas Rangers in position for a 5-4 win.
"They give me four early runs like that, I've got to be able to go out there and shut the door," Beckett said. "You can't go out there in the fourth inning and expect to be up eight runs and then give up four . . . I lost the game for us. Hopefully, I can get picked up by [Julian] Tavarez [today]."
So while the major league debut of Jacoby Ellsbury was a nice diversion for the 36,747 in attendance, the true attraction was Beckett, supposedly just polishing his All-Star résumé against the dregs of the AL West.
And with Texas starter Tejeda finishing his evening after four innings, having given up four runs on five hits and six walks (one intentional), it would have seemed that Beckett was in for an easy night. Not quite.
"We let one get away from us," said Jason Varitek, who struck out with one out and Drew on third base in the fifth. "Can't make excuses. I had an opportunity and I didn't get it done."
Having been granted a four-run lead, Beckett allowed four in the fourth, aided by a grounder that glanced off of second baseman Dustin Pedroia that was ruled a hit by Catalanotto.
"All of a sudden it seemed like every pitch he missed with, [he] missed right over the middle of the plate," manager Terry Francona said.
After Sammy Sosa's single off the Wall, Catalanotto hit his gift single into short right field. Marlon Byrd followed with an RBI single, then Brad Wilkerson drilled a two-run double off the center field wall, which was misplayed on the carom by Ellsbury. After a two-out infield single by Ramon Vazquez, Kenny Lofton provided the final run of the inning with a single to right.
Sosa lofted Beckett's 2-and-1 offering in the fifth just over the Wall, giving the Rangers the lead and Sosa the 602d home run of his career, Beckett becoming the 365th pitcher to allow a homer to him. When Catalanotto followed with a double, Beckett had matched his season high for hits with 10, which also came in his other loss this season, June 14 against Colorado.
But Sosa's home run would only be an afterthought if the Sox could cash in in the eighth. And Kevin Youkilis, who hit a two-run home run in the second inning -- had a chance with a runner in scoring position.
But clearly confusing and irking his manager, pinch runner Julio Lugo continued his spate of bad luck by running the Red Sox out of the inning. With two outs, Lugo took off trying to steal third base, and he was easily thrown out by Rangers catcher Gerald Laird.
"I think it kind of took everybody by surprise," Francona said of Lugo's steal attempt, the first time he was caught this season in 21 tries. "I think it's probably a case of a player trying to do too much."
It didn't help that the Red Sox went 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base against a team with a road ERA of 5.64.
"Even when it was 4-0, seemed like it was more, and Mikey Lowell hit two balls that, little wind or something, one of those balls get off the Wall," Francona said. "It's a frustrating game. You have a chance to put them away early and we didn't. And even so, with Beckett pitching, we still feel good about ourselves. That was a frustrating night for us."
There was one moment that was hardly diminished by the outcome -- Ellsbury's first career hit in the third inning.
Youkilis had the ball in his hand and, with the crowd giving a rousing standing ovation, he faked a throw to the masses. But he tossed it softly toward the Red Sox dugout. The ball that Ellsbury grounded to Rangers shortstop Michael Young was safe with his new teammates and Ellsbury was safe at first after using his much-discussed speed to beat Young's throw.
All the center fielder needed were a few short words to explain the night and the moment: "It was a dream come true, yes."