SEATTLE - Traditionally, in postgame media sessions with reporters, a manager waits for the first question to be asked.
John Farrell knew what that first question was going to be Friday night. More to the point, he had the answer ready, too.
"Before you even ask a question, that's a terrible decision on my part. I own that one,'' said a fuming Farrell.
The decision in question was to have reliever Junichi Tazawa pitch to Seattle Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz with the potential winning run on second and first base open in the ninth inning.
Cruz foiled the strategy by lining a single to left-center, scoring Brad Miller from second base and giving the Mariners a 2-1 walk-off win over the Red Sox.
Cruz was the American League Player of the Month for April and in May, before Friday night, was hitting .435 with seven RBI in 12 games. He led the American League in homers, slugging and OPS and was tied for second in RBI.
"We had a base open,'' said Farrell. "I saw Cruz's first three at-bats and he was chasing some off-speed below the zone. He was 1-for-8 against Taz, but it didn't work out. That's a terrible decision on my part. We had it set up. Walk him, take the bat out of his hands and then we've got a left-on-left with (lefthander Tommy) Layne and (Kyle) Seager.
"As we sit here in this moment, after the walkoff, yeah, that's the move to make. But like I said, terrible decision on my part...We had a couple of opportunities offensively, but still, that decision in the ninth inning was the story in this one.''
The Red Sox led 1-0 until starter Clay Buchholz made the only mistake he would make all night, leaving a two-seamer up in the zone for Seth Smith to hit out in the sixth.
The game remained tied until the ninth. With Buchholz at 102 pitches, Farrell went with Layne to start the inning. Layne retired pinch-hitter Willie Bloomquist on a groundout to short before Brad Miller reached on an infield single.
After Layne got Robinson Cano on a groundout to first, moving Miller to scoring position, he went to Tazawa for Cruz. In hindsight, the better move would have been to keep Layne in the game, walk Cruz intentionally and have Layne go after the left-handed Seager.
Instead, Farrell gambled and lost.
In the clubhouse, the players backed their manager.
"I don't put blame on anybody,'' said Dustin Pedroia. "Everybody has to find a way to help us win. It happens. Shoot, we had opportunities to score runs. That's the way I look at it. Decisions at the end of the game, I mean, you can put those to rest at the beginning of the game. We had chances and it just didn't go our way.''
Added Buchholz: "We get paid to pitch. I'm almost positive that Taz wasn't trying to throw that pitch anywhere in the zone. It's just that sometimes it happens, man. You can't be too hard on yourself. It's the part of the game that's hard to take sometimes.''