BOSTON -- The Red Sox have been digging themselves into holes lately. In the first three games of this four-game series against the Yankees, Boston batted in the first inning staring up at five-, four- and three-run deficits.
The day after Josh Beckett threw 33 pitches and gave up five runs in the first inning, Franklin Morales threw 28 pitches and allowed four runs in the opening inning of Game 1 before Felix Doubront threw "only" 21 pitches and gave up three runs to begin Game 2.
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But whereas Beckett had trouble finding the plate in the first, throwing only 14 strikes, Morales had trouble missing bats. He allowed four homers in 31/3 innings, including two in the first, and Doubront gave up a three-run shot by Mark Teixeira in the first inning of Game 2.
Doubront was able to right the ship after Teixeira's homer, allowing only two more hits, including a homer by Andruw Jones in the seventh.
"He gave up three in the first, not a lot of his own fault," Bobby Valentine said. "But after that, he was aces. I said, 'You know, we're going to score runs. You want to win, just hold them.' We scored runs and he wanted to win and he held them."
Neither Beckett nor Morales was able to achieve that same turnaround.
"I tried to throw my pitches and I missed them," Morales repeated over and over. He allowed back-to-back blasts deep into the Green Monster seats in the first: a three-run shot by Nick Swisher and a solo homer by Jones. Three innings later, he did it again, as Jones and Jayson Nix went back-to-back and Nix's drive landed on Lansdowne Street.
"His fastball kept coming back over the middle of the plate instead of running away from the righthanders and cutting in. He couldn't control it like he usually does," Valentine said. "He got hit throwing those fastballs in fastball-hitter counts and he gave up home runs."
In the first, Derek Jeter fell behind 0-and-2 but worked the count full before singling to short right-center. Morales then got Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to fly out but hit Robinson Cano in the right pinkie with a two-seam fastball.
Swisher made Morales pay on a 1-and-0 pitch, launching a two-seam fastball in the middle of the plate. Jones fell behind 0-and-2 but concluded a nine-pitch at-bat with a drive a few feet to the right of Swisher's.
Usually one of his most effective pitches, that two-seam fastball gave Morales problems. He didn't have the command he has demonstrated in recent outings against the Cubs, Braves and Mariners.
"If you're mis-locating and get behind in the count and you're still trying to establish a fastball against a fastball-hitting team that's as good as these guys are, they get hit pretty hard," Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure said.
This issue goes beyond just these few games. The Red Sox have an ERA of 6.35 in the first inning, giving up 60 earned runs in 85 games.
"They're trying as hard as they can and maybe trying a little bit too much," McClure said. "It's not a lack of effort or lack of preparation."