BOSTON -- Rangers center fielder Kenny Lofton, dormant as a basestealer for a month, was running wild again on Friday night at Fenway Park. He was on base five times with four singles and a walk, and stole four bases. That's the most in a game by a Ranger since 2000, the most by anybody in the Major Leagues and it finally moved him into sole possession of 16th place on the all-time stolen base list with 619 for his career. Running against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and closer Jonathan Papelbon, Lofton had no trouble getting to second base. The Rangers just couldn't get him home.
Not once. The Rangers were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and that ultimately proved their downfall in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox. This one ended with Lofton on second, Jerry Hairston on first and Michael Young, renowned for his clutch hitting, taking strike three against Papelbon for the third out in the ninth. "We went out there against one of the best closers in baseball and almost pulled it off," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We made him work. We felt good. ... The only thing that doesn't feel good is they got one more run than we did. We played hard, but it doesn't make you feel any better." Young was hitting .353 with runners in scoring position coming into the game, and Sammy Sosa was hitting .352 in those situations but struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh against reliever Manny Delcarmen. Hairston drove in the Rangers' only run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. "It was a battle of who would get the big hit, and we just didn't get it," first baseman Brad Wilkerson said. "We battled to the end. But we're at the point where teams have to play a really good game to beat us. It at least feels good to be in a clubhouse where guys are fighting hard and playing good sound baseball." The Red Sox were just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, but that one hit was an infield single that scored one run. The second run came across after starter Jamey Wright walked two in the fifth, threw one wild pitch and then couldn't kick a ground ball to third baseman Ramon Vazquez fast enough for a play at first base. "Kick save and a run scored," Wright joked weakly after allowing two runs in five-plus innings and suffering the 100th loss of his career. He is now 68-100 in his career, a .404 winning percentage that is the lowest by an active pitcher with at least 100 decisions. "I'm happy I'm getting guys out, but I'm not happy about only going five innings," Wright said. "I'm just going too deep in counts and wasting a lot of pitches instead of getting quick outs." Case in point was the decisive fifth in a 1-1 game. With two out and Kevin Youkilis on first base, Wright got to 2-2 on David Ortiz and ended up walking him. "That's a case of giving the hitter too much credit," Wright said. "Instead of coming at him and letting him get himself out, I try to make an unhittable pitch and ended up walking him." With Manny Ramirez at the plate, Wright threw a wild pitch that moved the runners to second and third, setting up the play that brought home the go-ahead run. Ramirez hit a wicked grounder up the middle that hit Wright in the bottom of the foot and caromed toward Vazquez at third base. Vazquez took it on one hop, decided he didn't have a play at first and tagged out Ortiz. But it wasn't a force, and Youkilis just crossed home plate before the tag, allowing the run to count. "The ball kicked up in the air and I had to wait for it," Vazquez said. "Because I had to wait for it, I stopped thinking about first base. I didn't think I had a chance at first base. When I saw Ortiz in front of me, I had to get the out. I tried to tag him as quickly as possible. If I go to first base and he's safe, it's runners on first and third with [J.D.] Drew up." If Vazquez goes to first base and gets the out, the run doesn't count. But Young told him he made the right play, and Washington agreed. "It's hard to say, because normally when that ball comes off, you try to get the guy at first because the runner doesn't score," Washington said. "But ... is he certain Manny is not going to beat it? So I have to trust his judgment, and his judgment was to get Ortiz. We still had four innings to go." The Rangers put six runners on base in the last four innings. Twice Lofton reached on infield hits and immediately stole second. But the Rangers never got him home.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.