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Lesser lineup was caught in the middle


Lesser lineup was caught in the middle
SEATTLE - The score was tied in the fifth inning yesterday, but that would surely change. Runners stood on every base. There were no outs.

In typical circumstances, David Ortiz and then Kevin Youkilis would have awaited. Ineffectiveness had sidelined the former, injury the latter, so Jason Bay and Mike Lowell stood on deck. Both have proven more than capable this season, and the Red Sox only needed one run.

``I don't think I could have asked for a better situation,'' Lowell said.

The Sox placed themselves in the right position often during their 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, but they could not capitalize, and the squandered opportunities led to the lowest output by their slumbering offense during a road trip marked by stagnancy.

The Sox averaged 3.8 runs during their West Coast swing, which they concluded with a 2-4 record. They bottomed out yesterday by leaving nine men on base and grounding into three double plays. They did so without Ortiz and Youkilis, their usual 3-4 hitters.

On the road trip, Youkilis's replacement at first, Jeff Bailey, went 3 for 21 (.143) with a home run and three walks. Rocco Baldelli subbed for Ortiz in Seattle. He went 0 for 11 with a walk, extending the Sox designated hitter hitless streak to 21 at-bats.

With Youkilis and Ortiz, ``we're a much different team,'' Lowell said. ``But I don't think that means that we can't win. The guys we have here, I mean, J-Bay and myself, we've been driving in runs all year. Just because they're not there, it doesn't mean we can't drive in runs.''

The Sox' best chance came in the fifth, when Nick Green and Jacoby Ellsbury led off with singles and Dustin Pedroia walked to load the bases. Bay (team-best 40 RBIs) and Lowell (second with 28) readied to face Mariners starter Jason Vargas. Lowell had played with Vargas with the Florida Marlins, and he sensed a perfect opportunity.

``His strength is mixing up pitches,'' Lowell said. ``And he didn't have his changeup or his slider.''

But Bay fouled out to first. Lowell watched the first pitch, a fastball, zip by, which he later regretted. He felt he was too selective, and he could have easily driven that fastball for at least a sacrifice fly. Instead, he grounded a changeup to shortstop, starting an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, the second twin killing he hit into yesterday. Lowell has grounded into 11 double plays this year, more than any player in the major leagues.

``Bases loaded, no outs,'' Lowell said. ``You definitely feel like you should at least put something on the board.''

For the game, Bay and Lowell went 0 for 8 with a strikeout apiece. No one worries about them, but it's difficult not to envision how much deeper the Sox could be with Youkilis healthy and an effective Ortiz.

``Those guys are good hitters,'' Pedroia said. ``You take those guys out of the lineup, you're going to have a tough time.

``We still had opportunities to score runs in certain situations, and we just didn't. We need to do a better job of finding a way to. If we're not hitting home runs, then we've got to find a way to manufacture runs. We've got to start doing it.''

There is no guarantee Ortiz will return to form when he returns to the lineup tomorrow after his one-series sabbatical. Youkilis, batting .393, will play a minor league rehab game in Pawtucket tonight, and if all goes well he will return to the Red Sox lineup Wednesday.

``We kind of miss his grinding at-bats,'' Pedroia said of Youkilis. ``His eight-, nine-, 10-pitch at-bats gets their starter out of the game a little earlier. Hopefully we get those two guys back and get rolling.

``We didn't really swing the bats very well kind of this whole trip. Hopefully we'll get back home and swing the bats better. We need to score a lot more runs than two.''

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 18, 2009

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