CLEVELAND — After learning early in the day that Will Middlebrooks’ solid rookie season was likely over because of a fractured wrist, the Boston Red Sox needed some good news.
None came Saturday night as they fell to the Indians 5-2, for their eighth loss in 11 games. The Red Sox have dropped two of three in the series to a team that broke an 11-game losing streak on Wednesday, one shy of the franchise record.
Boston starter Franklin Morales (3-3) allowed only two hits in 5 2-3 innings, but the offense was held in check by rookie Zach McAllister, and two rallies were snuffed out by questionable baserunning.
Making matters worse, the offensive star for Cleveland was Brent Lillibridge, who spent three weeks with the Red Sox earlier this season. Lillibridge homered in the third to put Cleveland ahead. His RBI single tied the game 2-2 in the fifth. With Cleveland leading 3-2, Lillibridge had a hustle double to lead off the seventh, took third on a groundout and scored on Lou Marson’s suicide squeeze bunt.
Lillibridge raised his average 21 points to .202 and doubled his season RBI total to four. Asked if it was frustrating to have an opposing player not known for his bat have a big night, Boston manager Bobby Valentine said, “It’s frustrating to lose, period.”
The Red Sox acquired Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart from the Chicago White Sox for third baseman Kevin Youkilis on June 24. Lillibridge was designated for assignment on July 16 and traded to the Indians eight days later for minor league pitcher Jose De La Torre.
“It was a whirlwind,” Lillibridge said of his short time in Boston. “I never got my feet settled. It didn’t work out the way they thought, but the Indians gave me a chance, and I am happy here.”
Over-aggressive baserunning by Dustin Pedroia, who was thrown out at home on Adrian Gonzalez’s two-run double in the fourth, and Jacoby Ellsbury, who was nailed trying for a triple with the game tied in the sixth, didn’t help the cause.
Ellsbury started the sixth with a drive off the wall in left-center and never slowed down in heading toward third. Center fielder Michael Brantley’s throw was wide, but Lillibridge made a diving tag.
While Ellsbury thought he made the right decision.
“It was a perfect play. (Brantley) fielded it barehanded off the wall,” Ellsbury said. “I’d do it again.”
Valentine questioned that thought process.
“If he had to do it again, he wouldn’t do it with no outs,” Valentine said.
Boston’s first nine hitters went down against McAllister before the Red Sox scored twice in a bizarre fourth. After Ellsbury led off with a double, Carl Crawford bunted to the left of the mound. McAllister wanted to throw to third, but Lillibridge charged the play, and no one covered the bag. McAllister threw to first, but Crawford was safe.
Lillibridge fielded Pedroia’s ground ball near the cut of the grass, but had no play, leaving the bases loaded. Gonzalez doubled off the wall in left field, scoring Ellsbury and Crawford. Pedroia, off with the crack of the bat, was on Crawford’s tail around third, but was tagged out at the plate by Marson after Lillibridge’s strong relay throw.
The Red Sox had a chance to score again, but Cody Ross grounded out and Jarrod Saltalamacchia flied out.
“Aggressive baserunning cost us,” Valentine said. “Dustin had to slow up a little when he went around second. He might have passed Carl, he didn’t, I guess.”
“I wouldn’t really call them mistakes,” Ellsbury said. “We’re being aggressive. That’s what you have to do when you’re not scoring runs.”
Lillibridge tied a career high with three hits and hit his first homer since Aug. 31, 2011.
McAllister (5-4) allowed three hits — all doubles — in a career-high eight innings.
“The kid was throwing the ball where he wanted to throw it,” Valentine said. “That low and away pitch was really effective.”
Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his 31st save in 35 chances for Cleveland, 3-1 since ending its losing streak.
Brantley’s sacrifice fly broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth.
NOTES: Boston called up 3B Danny Valencia from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Middlebrooks, who was placed on the disabled list with a broken right wrist. Valencia arrived at the ballpark just before gametime and entered in the eighth inning. Boston has had 25 players on the DL this year. … DH David Ortiz (heel) took batting practice Saturday, but it’s unclear when he will return. … The start was delayed 18 minutes because Indians Hall of Fame ceremonies ran long. Right-hander Gaylord Perry, late outfielder Jack Graney, and trainer Jim Warfield were all inducted. … The series ends Sunday when LHP Jon Lester (5-10) faces RHP Corey Kluber (0-0). … The Red Sox are off Monday and open a three-game series Tuesday in Baltimore.