DENVER -- If you’re thinking it has been a while since you’ve seen this, you’re right.
The Sox are 31-13 this season in games decided by five or more runs. This was one of the 13.
However, the loss didn't cost the Sox their hold on the best record in the American League as the Oakland Athletics lost 3-0 to the Los Angeles Angels, meaning the Sox have a one-game lead with four games to play. The Detroit Tigers, who started the night four games behind with five to play, beat the Twins, so they’re three back with four to play.
The disappointment of the loss also was tempered by manager John Farrell’s postgame announcement that Jacoby Ellsbury has been cleared to return to the lineup Wednesday night for the first time since Sept. 5. Ellsbury has missed the past 16 games while giving time for some subsiding of the bruising and inflammation around the small fracture in the navicular bone of his right foot.
"He’s likely to start in center field, leading off, yes," Farrell said.
Sox starter John Lackey gave up three bases-empty home runs in the first four innings and four runs in all over six innings, and the Rockies tacked on four more in the seventh inning against Boston's bullpen.
"Not one of our better nights on the mound," Farrell said. "John made a couple of mistakes he paid for, especially in a park where we know the ball is going to carry. The three home runs allowed are not common for him the way he’s pitched us for all year, and in the seventh inning, we let the game get away from us with four runs."
Lackey has not been the same pitcher on the road (4-10, 4.48 ERA) that he has been at home (6-3, 2.47 ERA), which probably will factor into how Farrell lines up his postseason rotation. Lackey seems like an obvious choice to follow Jon Lester in the second game of the division series in Boston, with Clay Buchholz pitching Game 3 on the road, but Farrell has yet to reveal his plans.
Why is Lackey better at Fenway? Farrell thinks it could be that he is better to his glove side of the plate, and thus takes advantage of the wide spaces in right and center fields in the Fens. And Lackey? He stammered something, then said, "You can’t put your finger on it, really. If I could pitch that well on the road, I’d certainly try to."
Lackey originally was scheduled to throw an inning or so Tuesday, before it was decided to give him another full start. Asked if he would throttle down Sunday in his final start, he shrugged and said, "I only work here." As if the Sox haven’t discussed their plans fully with the pitcher.
Reliever Brandon Workman hadn’t pitched in a week, the Sox looking to give the rookie some rest, but the downtime did nothing for his command. "He looked like he hadn’t pitched in a while," Farrell said. "Knowing the number of innings and the high stress innings, we wanted to buy him some time, and it looked like there was a little rust."
Drake Britton replaced Lackey at the start of the seventh and gave up a leadoff double to catcher Jordan Pacheco. Workman entered and in short order gave up a single to pinch hitter Jeff Rutledge, a walk to Charlie Blackmon and a two-run single to DJ LeMahieu. After a double steal, Troy Tulowitzki grounded out to third, but then Michael Cuddyer blooped a two-run single, knocking out Workman.
The Sox trailed 8-1, until David Ortiz singled ahead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s 14th home run in the ninth.