Almost from the very start of the regular season, all the way through this, the second round of the playoffs, a hallmark of the 2013 Red Sox has been this: they don't beat themselves. They don't provide extra outs. They don't offer up free passes to the opposition. They don't fumble away routine plays. But Tuesday night, with a chance to take a commanding lead in the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox did all of those things.
It's one thing to lose. It's another to give away a game, which is what the Sox did in Game 4 of the ALCS at Comerica Park. All that was missing was a nice big bow to top the gift they handed the desperate Tigers.
Starter Jake Peavy issued three walks in the span of four hitters, the last of which went to Austin Jackson, one of the game's least selective players.
Jackson had been so inept offensively that Tigers manager Jim Leyland demoted him from leadoff to No. 8 in the Detroit order for Game 4. Yet Peavy, somehow, walked Jackson with the bases loaded. On four pitches.
"I think we probably contributed to the building of the inning,'' acknowledged manager John Farrell. "Things we have control over and that's, hopefully, command of the strike zone with a little more consistency. Jake has been so good at that and it's uncharacteristic with the three walks inside of one inning.''
"I just could make that big pitch to minimize the damage,'' bemoaned Peavy, who was gone before he could get an out in the fourth inning. "Damage control, as we all know, with that ballclub, as we all saw in Game 2, can escalate and get out of hand at any moment and certainly did in the second. No excuses. It's on me.''
Peavy had difficulty "reeling in'' his sinker, which consistently dropped out of the strike zone.
"It looked like he was trying to be a little too fine,'' said Farrell.
The walk to Jackson was unquestionably the low point. Even when he's playing well, Jackson is a free-swinger who doesn't walk much, especially for a leadoff hitter.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland dropped the slumping outfielder to eight for Game 4, but Peavy made it easy on him by missing with four straight pitches.
"You can't give guys free passes and I did that,'' said Peavy. "You know [Jackson] isn't swinging the bat that well, that's why he's in the eight hole. I've got to make him swing the bat and I just couldn't do that there.''
After the walk to Jackson forced in the first run, the Red Sox had a chance to get out of the inning trailing just 1-0 when Jose Iglesias hit what seemed like a perfect double-play ball to the normally sure-handed Dustin Pedroia.
But Pedroia bobbled the ball, and when the Sox only got Jackson on the force at second, Iglesias beat the throw to first and Jhonny Peralta scored the second run.
Instead of an inning-ending double play, things got away from the Sox and three more runs scored on a two-run double by Torii Hunter and a run-scoring single from Miguel Cabrera.
"That's my fault,'' said a downcast Pedroia. "We've got to turn that double play on the ball Iggy hit. It was hit hard. He kind of backspun it and I thought it was going to hop up and it stayed down and it didn't land in the web of my glove. We got one out instead of two.''
The miscue by Pedroia, among the game's best infielders, seemed to stun the Sox. "He's so consistent,'' said Farrell, "and such a good defender. That's a routine double play, we've seen many, many times over.''
With a 5-0 lead, the game was effectively over. A a series that had been taut as can be in the first three games turned into a laugher by the fourth inning Wednesday night.
This would not go down to the final at-bat. This would not be determined by one pitch, one way or another.
The Sox had no one but themselves to blame.
"We dug ourselves a hole,'' said Peavy. ''We had our chances to get out of that inning and minimize the damage and make better pitches to Jackson.''
"One of those nights,'' shrugged a philosophical David Ortiz. And one very atypical for a team that usually doesn't make things easier for the other team by beating itself.
- Sean McAdam, CSN New England