BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine came to the mound in the ninth inning, and Clay Buchholz handed him the ball and prepared to walk to the dugout.
Valentine stopped him. They talked. Valentine gave Buchholz the ball back. Your game to win or lose, kid.
And why not? Buchholz had pitched a terrific game. He’d given up three runs on four singles in the fourth inning, then set down 13 straight Blue Jays until Rajai Davis singled with one out in the ninth. Davis stole second, and Anthony Gose, batting .215, followed with another single, Davis stopping at third.
Buchholz has been Boston’s best pitcher. Toronto manager John Farrell sent up a pinch hitter, Kelly Johnson, but when Gose stole second, Valentine countered by having Buchholz intentionally walk Johnson.
To the plate came 45-year-old Omar Vizquel, who had four RBIs in 133 at-bats this season, and no sacrifice flies. Vizquel hit a sacrifice fly, and the Blue Jays led, 4-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cody Ross hit what would have been a game-winning two-run home run, but it hooked foul. Ross struck out. Jacoby Ellsbury launched a ball deep to center field, pinch runner Ivan DeJesus poised to sprint around the bases for the tying run. But Colby Rasmus caught it on the track.
Mike Aviles popped out at the plate, and it was over.
Jays 4, Sox 3.
“I thought he was coming out to get me and he was like, ‘I’m just coming to check on how you’re doing,’” Buchholz said of the ninth-inning visit by Valentine. I was like, “‘Go back to the dugout, I’ll try to get a ground-ball double play right here.’ The guy took second, I walked (Mathis) and then gave up a run.
“That was the first time for me,” Buchholz added. “When (Terry Francona) was here, he’d get two steps out of the dugout and was already calling (to the bullpen). It might have looked a little bad because I thought (Valentine) was coming to take me out and I handed him the ball. He asked me how I felt and I said, ‘I feel fine.’ I just didn’t execute the pitch the way I needed to execute it and gave up that run.”
On the sacrifice fly by Vizquel, Buchholz said he attempted to throw a cutter in, but missed his spot the Toronto had the decisive run.
“If somebody’s going to give up the runs, I’d rather have it be me because I know when relievers come in, if they give up the inherited runs they feel pretty bad about it,” Buchholz said. “So I’d rather put it all on me and that’s what I did.”
So despite home runs by Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, the Sox have lost 11 of 12 after being swept by the Jays. They are in last place, two games behind the Jays, 16 1/2 behind the Yankees, who come to town Tuesday.
There are 21 games left.