Halos can't fend off Red Sox in ninth
Fuentes falters as late rallies come from both sides
BOSTON -- The Angels felt they were robbed and had video evidence, courtesy of national cable television, to make their case.
Not that it mattered.
The call always stands in baseball. So it was that Red Sox pinch-hitter Nick Green walked on a full count to force home a tying run on a pitch framed by a TV replay as a strike by Brian Fuentes, and when Alex Gonzalez dropped a single in front of Juan Rivera in shallow left, Boston had a 9-8 walk-off victory on a wild Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
"What was the count -- 3 and 4, to Green?" Angels manager Mike Scioscia asked a media crowd gathered around his desk in the visitors' clubhouse.
Scioscia and Fuentes were convinced that Green had struck out twice, on a checked swing, ruled a ball by first-base umpire Jack Kellogg, and then on the 3-2 fastball near the knees ruled a ball by home-plate arbiter Rick Reed.
"We're out there pouring our hearts out ... it's frustrating," Fuentes said. "To have it taken away is discouraging. I know he didn't mean to miss a call. It's either a human mistake or they're scared. Maybe it's coincidence, maybe it's not.
"Especially here and some other places, they seem timid to make a call. I don't know why; it's just the way it is. I've heard it from other guys. He made the call. He'll have to live with it."
Consecutive two-out singles by Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu had given the Angels a one-run cushion in the top of the ninth inning, and they were on the verge of nailing it down when Fuentes retired the first two hitters in the bottom half.
But strange things began happening after Fuentes pitched around dangerous David Ortiz with a four-pitch walk. J.D. Drew found a hole in the middle of the infield for a hit, moving pinch-runner Joey Gathright to second. Jed Lowrie slapped a ground ball that Figgins contained with a backhanded stab, keeping Gathright at third on the infield hit.
Up came Green, batting for former Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman, and Fuentes threw nothing but fastballs.
"I thought we had him a couple times," Scioscia said. "I was surprised. It's a good umpiring crew. We really feel strongly a couple times we had Green struck out."
Naturally, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had a different view altogether.
"Greenie's at-bat was great," Francona said. "He was behind the first couple fastballs. You could see him getting closer and closer as he was fouling some.
"I think you see a couple of teams that are pretty similar. I mean that respectfully towards them. We come back, they come back. It's two good teams."
Collecting 17 hits, led by Aybar with four and Abreu and Rivera with three each, the Angels had enough offense against Paul Byrd and five relievers.
It was the defense that once again was the Achilles' heel, testing the patience of one very upset eight-time Gold Glove center fielder.
"I'm [upset]," Torii Hunter said. "We made some mistakes we haven't made the whole season. We get to here, we make mistakes. We get to New York, we make mistakes. We're better than that.
"What happened at the end of the game, that call, we lost the game long ago. We made too many mistakes. I know it's the regular season, but if you do that in the regular season, what's going to happen in the playoffs?"
Hunter, who smashed his 22nd homer and doubled to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, stressed that the Angels need to bring the same attitude to Boston and New York they carry into games with everybody else.
"It's not more important," he said. "Play the same way you have all season. Play the game, have fun. Don't change a thing because it's the Red Sox or the Yankees. Play nervous, you're going to make mistakes."
Boston rebounded twice, with a five-run sixth inning against Joe Saunders and then with two in the eighth to draw even after the Angels had left the bases loaded in the top half.
Rivera's two-run double to center on the heels of Howard Kendrick's RBI single had given the Angels a 7-5 lead in the seventh, the Red Sox having rallied with a five-run sixth against Joe Saunders keyed by Gonzalez's two-out, two-strike, two-run single to right.
It was the Angels' turn to rally in the seventh. Catcher Jason Varitek's passed ball on Kendry Morales' strikeout prolonged the inning, and Rivera unloaded after Kendrick's RBI single against Ramon Ramirez. Mike Napoli followed Rivera's shot with an RBI double into the left-field corner, ending a hitless spell spanning 16 at-bats.
During the seventh, Vladimir Guerrero was drilled in the rib cage by Takashi Saito and left the game.
"It doesn't feel good," Guerrero said after the game, pulling up his shirt to show a welt that had formed where the ball met flesh and bone. "What can you do? I'll see how it feels [Thursday]."
It was described as a bruise of the rib cage, and no X-rays were ordered for Guerrero. Scioscia said he didn't expect Guerrero to play in the series finale on Thursday night when Josh Beckett takes on Angels right-hander Ervin Santana.
Gonzalez's single to right field completed the five-run sixth for Boston after Saunders, in pursuit of his fifth consecutive win, had a shut out through five innings and was cruising with a three-run lead.
A defense that has been consistently excellent unraveled, causing three of the five runs by the Red Sox in the inning to be unearned.
After Jacoby Ellsbury's infield hit leading off the sixth, Dustin Pedroia whistled a line drive past Figgins at third for a double, with Ellsbury stopping at third. Jason Bay then slammed a two-run single to center.
The Angels lost one out and possibly two when shortstop Aybar bobbled Kendrick's toss from second on Mike Lowell's grounder for an error.
"I thought he lost it on the transfer, and so did Erick," Scioscia said, losing that argument as well.
Kendrick then missed a double-play shot on Ortiz's sharp grounder, losing his grip and getting only a forceout at second.
Rocco Baldelli's two-strike grounder through the left side brought the Sox even at 3. After Gonzalez's opposite-field hit ended Saunders' night, Jason Bulger struck out Ellsbury to finally end the inning.
Saunders departed after 5 2/3 innings, having yielded eight hits and three walks while striking out five hitters. He has surrendered seven earned runs in his past 30 innings, covering five starts, for a 2.10 ERA.
The Angels squandered a chance to break it open in the top of the sixth. Byrd departed with two on and one out after Hunter's homer had provided a 3-0 lead.
Aybar's RBI single, after Rivera's leadoff single, had given the Angels the lead in the third inning. Abreu's 415-foot RBI double, after Aybar's single, made it 2-0 in the fifth.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.