It Even Affects The Pros: Hot Day Means Brain Freezes

Baserunning Mistakes Do In Red Sox

BOSTON — Maybe it was the 90-degree heat, and we're not only talking about Hiroki Kuroda's fastball here. Maybe we can blame some of this stuff on the final day of an oppressive heat wave.

Makes people do crazy things.

Makes people do things they ordinarily wouldn't.

Like when was the last time, during a 21-minute rain delay before the start of a game, that you saw the grounds crew watering the infield?

Like, never?

So when base runners started getting nailed all over the place in this 5-2 Yankees victory over the Red Sox on Saturday, it made you wonder. Some of it was overaggressiveness. Some of it was brain freeze, which was about the only thing freezing without intense refrigeration. And, hey, maybe some of it was the heat, if not from the sun maybe from a developing playoff race.

The Red Sox, for the most part, have been an aggressive yet a smart team for almost all of this season. It's one of the reasons they still stand 1 1/2 games ahead of the red-hot Rays. When they do make their blunders, however, they tend to bunch them in games.

Daniel Nava ran the Red Sox right out of this one. With a one-out single in the eighth, Sox down by two runs, Nava watched as Dustin Pedroia lifted a foul ball behind home plate toward the third base side.

"Actually, the pitch before I was told by [first base coach Arnie Beyeler], 'Don't go anywhere.' " Nava said. "It's my fault. Late in the game, you need to be on top of stuff. It's unfortunate."

Make no mistake, Yankees catcher Chris Stewart made a terrific play to lean into the Fenway stands and grab Pedroia's foul pop. It's the kind of a Jeteresque catch and throw that ends up on ESPN highlights. Yet as Stewart quickly regrouped and saw Nava tagging and heading for second, well, Nava was out by a mile.

Instinctively, when you see a guy dive into the fans — and it's a wonder no Red Sox fan didn't interfere with Stewart — an aggressive player thinks he can advance. But it was 4-2 and David Ortiz, one of the game's premier power hitters over the past decade, was on deck. Brain freeze!

"It's a play that doesn't happen much, but the coaches were doing their job, letting me know [what the situation was]. I just turned things off and reacted," Nava said. "In hindsight, I wouldn't have done what I did, just based on the situation, with Papi on deck.

"You see a guy go into the stands and most of the time you can take the base. But that's a time when even when you can take the base, I shouldn't have tried. It changes the dynamic. Stewart made a great play and that exposed it all the more."

John Lackey came into this day with a 2.78 ERA, his best mark through 16 starts in his career, good for fourth in the American League. Coming off a season lost to Tommy John surgery and in terrific shape, Lackey has been everything he wasn't the first few years with the Red Sox. Remember how everyone hated those faces he made when something went wrong in 2011? Well, it was Pedroia who made a semi-Lackey face in the eighth inning.

"If I could go back, I'd change it if I could." Nava said.

Coupled with what happened in the first inning, well, let's put it this way. It's a good thing John Farrell, not Bobby Valentine, is managing the Red Sox. Farrell wrote off Nava's mistake as "overaggressiveness" and left it at that. Bobby V probably would have said something like, "I can't imagine what he was thinking."

In the first, Ortiz hit a rocket line single to left field with two out. Nava stumbled a little coming around third base. He kept going. He would have been out by a half-mile. Instead he was out by two miles.

"In that first inning, we're looking to put pressure on the defense," Farrell said. "[Vernon] Wells came up and made a quality throw to the plate and Nava gets cut down."

"I came around third and didn't have the footing I wanted to," Nava said. "It probably would have been a closer play. I knew I was going based on it being two outs. The play happened right in front of me. I was surprised where Vernon was playing. He was playing right there. But you've got to send someone in that situation, two outs. He made a good throw and, unfortunately, today was a rough one on the bases for me."

Nava wasn't the Lone Ranger.

With two out in the fifth, Mike Carp was thrown out at the plate to end that inning and help bail out Kuroda — the one guy who was exceptionally cool on this day.

Baserunning involves so much instinct. Kuroda's pitch hit the dirt and slipped past Stewart, but he chased it down and got the ball to Kuroda in time to get Carp at the plate.

"Kuroda throws that split-finger, it goes in the dirt," Carp said. "It's instinct. You see the ball on the ground and you go. [Stewart] made a great play. If he doesn't, if he's there a second later, I'm in there safe.

"We've done a good job all year, moving guys, doing things like going first to third. It's just one of those things. It happens. You don't want it to happen often. Sometimes mistakes happen."

Especially in the heat.

The Red Sox did score one of their runs in a two-run seven on a Kuroda wild pitch, and Big Papi paid no heed to third base coach Brian Butterfield holding him up and successfully tagged up on Jonny Gomes' sacrifice fly to center. Those runs ended a string of 18 scoreless innings by Kuroda. The Yankees desperately needed that kind of showing from Kuroda, who was locked in a scoreless game with Lackey until the fifth. Lackey did allow 10 hits, but it wasn't until Matt Thornton came in and gave up two more hits in relief that Lackey's run total reached four. It was the first time he allowed more than two since June 10.

"Kuroda threw a lot of strikes," Farrell said. He's got such late action on his cutter and his split. Good location on his fastball. What was most impressive, even in the sixth and seventh innings in these conditions, is to reach back and touch 95, 96 in the meat of our order."

Except for the Fenway fans giving Mariano Rivera a standing ovation as he entered in the ninth, there was nothing cooler than Kuroda on this day. Even the two premier second basemen — two guys standing to get contracts in excess of $100 million — played bad games in the field. Pedroia made only his second error of the season, botching a force play, and Robinson Cano made an error. And on a play where the throw beat a Sox runner sliding into second for a double, Cano seemed to forget why he went to second in the first place and kind of absent-mindedly bobbled the ball.

Blame it on the heat. The Yanks had their baserunning adventures, too, but they ended up not costing them as much. Eduardo Nunez can be electric, but he can be a little wild, too. And when he broke for home from third base on a ground ball to a drawn-in infield, shortstop Stephen Drew threw Nunez out by a mile. In the ninth, Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw behind runner Luis Cruz at second base. Cruz looked dead, but raced for third, slid in under the tag, was credited with a stolen base and scored the final run on a base hit by Cano.

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