Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Red Sox Wins Over Angels 5-1

It's like a rite of passage for the Angels' top young relievers, a baptism by Fenway fire. It happened here to Troy Percival, to Brendan Donnelly, to Scot Shields, to Francisco Rodriguez, and it happened Tuesday night to Kevin Jepsen, whose rare meltdown during a four-run eighth inning led to the Angels' 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Kevin Jepsen had been the team's best reliever this season, with a 1.64 earned-run average in 14 games, but the right-hander walked as many batters in the eighth inning Tuesday night — three — as he had all baseball season. That set the table for Jeremy Hermida's tiebreaking, opposite-field, three-run double, a fly ball that left fielder Juan Rivera appeared to have a chance of catching after a long run to the corner before pulling up in front of the wall.

Jeremy Hermida's hit laid to waste a superb start by Angels right-hander Ervin Santana, who gave up one run and seven hits in 7 innings, and sent the Angels to their fifth straight loss and their first 0-5 start to a trip since 2003.

"Right now," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "it stings."

The Angels were stymied by Boston left-hander Jon Lester, who gave up one run and five hits in eight innings, but with the score tied, 1-1, they loaded the bases in the eighth when Howie Kendrick and Mike Napoli singled, Brandon Wood bunted the runners up, and Erick Aybar walked.

But Jon Lester, with his 120th pitch, got Bobby Abreu to ground to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who tagged Aybar and, as he fell to the ground, shoveled a 20-foot toss to first for an inning-ending double play. walked Kevin JepsenVictor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis to open the bottom of the eighth, and J.D. Drew singled to left to load the bases.

It appeared Kevin Jepsen might escape the jam when David Ortiz, with the infield in, grounded sharply to Howie Kendrick. The second baseman threw home for the force, and Mike Napoli fired to first for a rare 4-2-3 double play.

But Adrian Beltre walked on four pitches to load the bases, and Hermida, who bats left-handed, lofted a fly ball to left. Juan Rivera, who was shaded toward the gap, about 95 feet off the line, had a bead on the ball but turned his back at the last second to play it off the wall. The ball bounced a foot in front of the wall, scoring three runs for a 4-1 lead. Mike Lowell's RBI double off Scot Shields made it 5-1.

"I ran hard, I thought the ball was going to hit the wall, I got real close, but I was too far toward the gap." Juan Rivera said.

The seats down the line in Fenway Park block the view of the corner from the third base dugout, and neither Scioscia nor bench coach Ron Roenicke, who positions the outfielders, saw a replay.

"It's hard because the wall is so high, if the ball is going to hit off the wall you want to stay off of it," Ron Roenicke said. And because the wall is only 310 feet from home, "you don't know how much to pinch in that corner."

Any time there's a fly ball to left, "You kind of hold your breath,I had trouble finding the strike zone with all three pitches, and that limited me to the fastball, I tried to battle, but you put yourself in a bad position when you walk the first batter. That gives them the upper hand." Kevin Jepsen said, which is exactly what the Angels probably did while Jepsen was pitching. Of his 32 pitches, 13 were strikes. His ERA ballooned to 4.63.

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