BOSTON - Los Angeles Angels closer Brian Fuentes thinks he’s figured out why the Red Sox have been so successful at home.
After two questionable calls kept the Red Sox alive with two outs in the ninth, Alex Gonzalez hit a game-winning blooper down the left-field line to give Boston a 9-8 victory over the Angels on Wednesday night — the seventh consecutive win for the Red Sox and their 10th in a row at Fenway Park.
That left Fuentes wondering aloud whether the umpires were too “timid” or “scared” to go against the sellout crowds at Fenway.
“Especially here and some other places, they seem timid to make calls,” he said after twice failing to get a third strike called on pinch-hitter Nick Green, who wound up drawing a bases-loaded walk to score the tying run. “I’ve heard it from other guys that come in here and say that. That’s either because it’s a mistake, or they’re scared.”
Fuentes (1-5) came into game looking for his major league-leading 42nd save and got two quick outs before walking David Ortiz and giving up infield singles to J.D. Drew and Jed Lowrie. Green quickly fell behind 0-2 and offered at the third pitch but stayed in the box when first base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that he did not go around.
Green then fouled off three pitches before taking three balls to walk in the tying run. The last was a knee-high fastball that had catcher Mike Napoli jumping out of his crouch in anticipation of Strike 3.
“What was the count at the end, 3-4 to Green?” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said sarcastically. “I thought we had him a couple of times. I was surprised. It’s a good umpiring crew and I think we really feel strongly they missed a couple times we had Green struck out. Unfortunately, that’s the focal point of the game and it didn’t go our way.”
Boston trailed 3-0 and 7-5 before tying the game in the bottom of the eighth. The Angels took the lead in the top of the ninth on three straight two-out singles against Daniel Bard (2-1).
But Fuentes gave it back — and more — in the bottom half.
Gonzalez, who hit a two-run, bases-loaded bloop to right to give Boston the lead in a five-run sixth inning, looped one down the left-field line that fell in front of Juan Rivera when he decided not to dive for it. That set off a familiar celebration in Fenway. where the Red Sox have sold out 542 consecutive games.
“Gonzie hit it just well enough where it found some outfield grass,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “Greenie’s at-bat was great. He was behind on the first couple of fastballs. You could see him getting closer and closer as he was fouling some. That’s a heck of an at-bat.
“I was holding my breath the last two at-bats, just hoping for a break or hoping for something good to happen, and we got it,” Francona added.
Despite losing four of their last five, the Angels maintained a six-game lead over Texas in the AL West; the Rangers fell 6½ games behind Boston in the wild-card race. If the standings hold, the Red Sox and Angels will meet again in the first round this year.
The Angels have lost 12 of their last 13 playoff games against the Red Sox dating to 1986 and are 0-4 all-time in postseason series against the Red Sox.
Erick Aybar had four hits for the Angels and Rivera had three, including a two-run double in a four-run seventh inning — aided by a dropped third strike — that gave Los Angeles a 7-5 lead. Bobby Abreu’s third hit was an RBI single to break a ninth-inning tie and give the Angels an 8-7 lead.
“If you come back against them — being down, going ahead, being down, coming back again, being down again and coming back — it’s a phenomenal game,” Red Sox starter Paul Byrd said. “I was in the clubhouse screaming with ice on my arm. I can’t believe what a great game that was.”
Notes: Francona said C Victor Martinez will be back in the lineup on Thursday, but 1B Kevin Youkilis might have to take another day or two. RHP Tim Wakefield is getting better and could pitch on Monday for the third time since the All-Star break. ... Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable. ... Guerrero was hit by a pitch in the ribcage in the seventh and was pinch hit for in the eighth. The Angels said it was a bruise and no X-rays were taken. ... Angels starter Joe Saunders had won four straight, allowing two earned runs or fewer in each of his last four starts. ... Making his fourth start since signing a minor league deal in August, Byrd went 5 1-3 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits and a walk, striking out four. He also gave up three long outs in the first two innings and a 415-foot double to Abreu in the fifth.
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