Rapid reaction: Jays 7, Sox 6 (10 inn.)
May, 10, 2011
By Jeremy Sandler | ESPNBoston.com
TORONTO -- It was a night for the Red Sox to take whatever positives they could in the opener of a two-game series against the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
Their 7-6 loss to Toronto could hardly be called a classic, not with Adrian Gonzalez gifting Toronto a run by dropping an easy fly ball and Carl Crawford running into a third out at home plate to end the fourth inning, all against a team that somehow still lets Edwin Encarnacion play the field.
Rajai Davis stole second and third to set up rookie David Cooper’s walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th.
The loss, which denied the Red Sox a chance to reach .500 for the first time this season, felt like an appropriate result as the Sox seemed to match every positive in the game with a negative.
On the one hand, Gonzalez’s second home run of the night, a solo blast off Blue Jays closer Frank Francisco in the top of the ninth that tied the game 6-6.
But that only made up for Cooper’s first big-league home run of Daniel Bard in the bottom of the eighth that gave Toronto the lead. For a supposed closer-in-waiting like Bard, it was hardly what manager Boston Terry Francona wanted to see.
The good news/bad news began with the opposing lineup for former Red Sox pitching coach and current Blue Jays manager John Farrell. Forget Murderer’s Row, it would be hard to call Farrell’s Tuesday lineup the Jaywalking Jays.
Toronto’s batting order featured one player -- Jose Bautista -- hitting higher than .264 and six players sitting at .243 or less.
Still, this rather ragtag collection forced Boston starter Jon Lester to endure his worst outing since Opening Day.
Lester, who had not walked more than three batters in any of his seven previous starts this season, issued three free passes in the first inning alone. That set the tone for what would be a long and up-and-down night on the mound for the 27-year-old.
Boston’s ace needed 114 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings and set or matched season highs by giving up seven hits, five walks and five runs.
But after his laborious first inning, he danced around trouble and shut out the Blue Jays for three innings.
That was enough time for Boston to take a 4-3 lead on Gonzalez’s first home run of the game, a two-run shot in the fifth.
Once again, good came matched with bad as Lester gave up solo home runs to Bautista and J.P. Arencibia in the fifth and sixth.
Francona, who seemed hellbent on giving his ace a chance to get his fifth win of the season, finally called on reliever Rich Hill with one out and two on in the sixth. Hill escaped that jam and pitched 1 1/3 shutout innings, but Bard’s wobble undid that success for Boston’s thus far unimpressive bullpen.
Even Gonzalez’s great night at the plate had its dark side in the field.
Technically, the first baseman still does not have an error charged against him this season. In reality the two-time Gold Glover handed Juan Rivera what might be the cheapest RBI so far this season. Sure, Gonzalez was backing up Rivera’s glorified bloop with one out and runners on the corners. Sure, the high pop-up had to go through the Rogers Centre’s notoriously awful lighting. But Gonzalez still should have caught it instead of letting it glance off his glove.
To his credit, Gonzalez recovered quickly enough to force out Aaron Hill at second though not before Bautista scored Toronto’s third run of the first inning.
There was, of course, some unmitigated good news from a Red Sox perspective.
Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a leadoff single in the first, thus putting one story to bed one batter into the game.
Crawford, who went 1-for-14 against Toronto during a three-game series at Fenway in April, showed he may still well be the same one-man wrecking crew for Boston at the Rogers Centre that he was during his Tampa Bay days.
The $142 million outfielder entered last night with 47 RBIs on Toronto’s artificial turf, his most at any park other than his former home at Tropicana Field. He added to that with a second-inning RBI single and helped tie the game in the eighth with a ground ball that moved pinch runner Jose Iglesias up 90 feet.
And David Ortiz showed he can still crush a belt-high fastball. When Drabek offered up a “Here you go” fastball in the top of the fourth, Ortiz whacked it off the windows of the now-closed restaurant above the wall in deepest center field for his fifth home run of the season.
Struggling second baseman Dustin Pedroia also showed some signs of life. The former MVP, whose .237 batting average heading into last night masked a respectable .353 on-base percentage, went 2-for-4 with two walks and a run scored.