BOSTON -- Erik Bedard had done his job in his debut with the Red Sox, putting together a competitive performance, particularly when you consider it was just his second start back from the disabled list.
But not long after he exited, things soured for Boston in a 7-3 loss to Cleveland.
Franklin Morales came on to replace Bedard to start the sixth, the game locked in a 3-3 tie.
It didn't stay tied for long. Travis Hafner greeted Morales with a double to right-center. Carlos Santana stepped up next and launched the first pitch he saw from Morales over the wall in center for a two-run homer.
Morales had been sharp of late, but not on this night.
"He got behind in the count to Hafner, gave up hard contact there," said manager Terry Francona. "He tried to get ahead [on the] first pitch to Santana, and all of a sudden, that's two runs. It happened in a hurry. At that point in the game, we're feeling pretty good. After coming off the outing he had the other day, he's facing lefty-switch-lefty. We got behind in a hurry."
The Sox never recovered, and were again beaten by old friend Justin Masterson. The righty, traded from Boston to Cleveland two years ago, fired six strong innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking one and striking out nine. He threw 118 pitches.
"He's got great stuff," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said of his ex-teammate. "We've seen it here. He did a good job of locating his fastball. He did a great job tonight. You tip your head and move on to tomorrow."
And tomorrow the Yankees come to town for a three-game series. The rivals enter the series tied, with a 68-42 record, far and away the best in the American League.
"We're excited," Pedroia said. "We're excited to keep playing. We've got a great team, and so do they, so we just have to play well."
The Red Sox hope to have more success against the Yankees' pitching staff than they did against Masterson. In four career starts against the Red Sox, Masterson is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA.
"Just like any good team you're facing, it's always nice to get a quality win against them," Masterson said. "It's a good atmosphere. It's fun. The fans are great here. They fire you up whether you're on their team or not, because there's lots of noise. It's a fun place to play."
Whereas Masterson was the player the Red Sox traded two years ago at the July 31 Deadline, Bedard is the one they got this year.
Over five innings, the lefty scattered seven hits and three runs while walking none and striking out five. He threw 70 pitches.
"I felt pretty good," Bedard said. "I threw strikes. That's a basic thing coming back and trying to get my pitch count up. That's the most important thing."
Overall, the Red Sox thought it was a good first step from a pitcher who will be important for them down the stretch.
"It's hard after a loss to sit here and say we're excited, [but] I thought he really pitched pretty well," Francona said. "I thought his line was certainly worse than the way he pitched. He cuts his fastball, has a good feel for his breaking ball. Nice changeup. Holds runners. Throws strikes. That will all continue to improve as he gets some innings under his belt. I don't want to stand up here and say we're excited after a loss, but I'm actually pretty excited about it."
Bedard had a crisp opening inning, and the Red Sox quickly gave him some runs to work with in the bottom of the first. With one out, Adrian Gonzalez belted an RBI double off the Monster in left-center. With two outs, David Ortiz drilled an RBI single to right.
But the Indians came right back in the second. With runners on second and third and one out, Matt LaPorta hit a grounder between first and second that Gonzalez and Pedroia converged on. Gonzalez wound up fielding it, but nobody covered first. It was ruled a hit, and a run scored.
"Brain fart, I guess," said Bedard, who took responsibility for not covering the bag.
More than anything, it seemed to be a fluky type of play.
"I don't know what happened," Pedroia said. "I think me and Adrian have to communicate better. I called it, but I didn't yell very loud, which is not like me, because I'm a loud guy. I'll yell louder next time."
Austin Kearns tied the score with a fielder's-choice grounder.
"It could change around that whole inning if that kind of freak play doesn't happen at first," said catcher Jason Varitek.
Santana blooped an RBI single to right in the third, and Cleveland had its first lead, at 3-2.
Masterson was nasty for most of the night, but the Red Sox did strike for an equalizer in the bottom of the fourth, with Josh Reddick belting a two-out solo shot to right.
It turns out that was the last back-and-forth moment of the night. From there it was all Tribe.
Bedard's next start will come at Minnesota.
"You always look forward to the next one," Bedard said. "Pitch count's going to be up a little more, and it's going to be like just a normal start. It'll be good."