Struggling bats, bad-luck bounce sink Red Sox

Weeks struck by ball at third base, thwarting ninth-inning rally

Struggling bats, bad-luck bounce sink Red Sox

PITTSBURGH -- In a season that went irreversibly sour weeks ago for the Red Sox, a new chapter of frustration was added in the top of the ninth inning on Thursday night against the Pirates in a play that might not be seen again anytime soon.

Moments before a 3-2 loss that completed a three-game sweep, the Sox seemed on the verge of a comeback.

With runners at the corners and nobody out, Will Middlebrooks hit a grounder to third. As pinch-runner Jemile Weeks hastily retreated back to the base, the live ball hit him on the right leg in fair territory.

Just like that, the tying run was no longer 90 feet away. Instead, a stunned Weeks was ruled out after a fluke play in which he did nothing wrong.

"I didn't anticipate it going foul," said Weeks. "I anticipated it pretty much going either way. It was coming pretty much right in front of me at first, so I'm guessing the way he hit it, it kind of spun and came at me a little bit. So my natural instinct was to do what I was told, get back on a slow chopper. I tried to get back as fast as I could and I didn't think it was going to come right on top of me like that."

That's just the way it has gone for a Boston team that is now 66-87, and for a Pirates team that hopes to be playoff-bound at 82-70.

"I've never seen it in my life," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the play. "Never seen that play. Fitting."

Neither had third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who has been in the game for decades.

"Jemile made the right move," said Butterfield. "He made the right move. But that was the first time in my life I've ever seen that happen. Sometimes when it rains it pours."

The Pirates loved the type of fortunate bounce that the Red Sox got plenty of last year.

"Seen ball hit guys before, but never in a situation like that," said Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison. "I saw it right off the bat, and I was charging it -- and the next thing I know, he broke back to the bag, just hit him while he was diving back. The next hop probably would've made it bounce foul."

In your scorebook, the play goes down as a single and a putout at third. Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out for the second out. Mark Melancon retired Christian Vazquez on a grounder to second for the game's final out.

Over the three games, Boston mustered an aggregate of three runs.

Brandon Workman was the victim of a lack of run support in this one, scattering seven hits and two earned runs while striking out six over five innings. The righty (1-10, 5.17 ERA) took the loss to remain winless since June 10.

"All I can control is going out there and getting ready to throw the ball again next time," said Workman. "Try to start the game sharper than what I did this time and move forward from there."

The Red Sox also had a chance to come back in the eighth, when Vazquez and pinch-hitter Garin Cecchini opened the inning with singles, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. A sacrifice fly by Xander Bogaerts nipped Pittsburgh's lead to a run. But Pirates reliever Tony Watson struck out David Ortiz to end the threat.

An error by Middlebrooks on a grounder by Andrew McCutchen in the bottom of the first helped the Pirates keep a rally going. With the bases loaded and one out, Workman walked Ike Davis to force in a run.

"Obviously, that's not the way you want to do it: put two guys on and walk in a run in the first inning," said Workman. "When it comes down to a one-run game and you walked in a run, that's one of those things."

Silent for most of this series, the Red Sox did generate something in the third. Vazquez started it with a one-out single. Workman did his job, moving Vazquez to second on a sacrifice bunt. Mookie Betts tied the game with an RBI single up the middle.

Davis started a rally in the fourth with an infield single. Jordy Mercer hit a double that was just fair over the third-base bag. Chris Stewart drilled an RBI single up the middle, and the Pirates were back in front at 2-1.

Starling Marte boosted the lead to two runs in the fifth when he launched a solo homer to left.

The Red Sox would knock on the door of a comeback a couple of times, but dumb luck left them just short.

"Just a crazy play," said Weeks.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.