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Friday, April 5, 2013
Takeaways: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 4

By Gordon Edes



TORONTO -- John Farrell was booed when he was introduced, booed when he brought out the lineup card, booed when he made a pitching change, and booed even when it wasn't him but the Rogers Centre crowd thought it was, which is what happened when pitching coach Juan Nieves went to the mound for a conference.

Seldom, if ever, does a visiting manager incur such wrath. Tommy Lasorda used to hear it from the fans in San Francisco's Candlestick Park when the Dodgers came to town, showered with boos on the long walk from the clubhouse in the right-field corner to the third-base dugout. But while Lasorda might have been genuinely despised, it was played for laughs. The stadium organist tootled a satirical "Hail to the Chief" and Lasorda waved his hat over his head, bowing left and right.

Not Friday night. The Toronto fans were playing for keeps, evidently taking it personally that Farrell departed with a year left on his Blue Jays contract for what he termed a "dream job" in Boston. When they weren't booing him, they were taunting him with sing-song chants of "[Bleep] you, Farr-ell.'' That much-vaunted Canadian civility took this night off.

John Farrell
John Farrell let the Toronto crowd know he appreciated their attention.
But Farrell was playing for keeps, too, in Friday night's 6-4 Sox win, their third in four games in this young season. A decision Farrell made in the eighth inning played a key role in a wildly entertaining game between the Sox and Blue Jays, who in their first meeting with the Sox this season lived up to all their advance notices as the new force to be reckoned with in the American League East.

With the score tied at 4 with one out in the eighth inning, Farrell sent Jonny Gomes to the plate to pinch-hit for Daniel Nava against Jays lefty reliever Brett Cecil, who had struck out the previous four Sox hitters he had faced, including three -- Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Pedro Ciriaco -- with runners on second and third and no outs in the seventh.

It wasn't a bold move or an unexpected one -- Nava hits right-handed pitchers much better than lefties. But it got Cecil out of the game, as John Gibbons -- the man who replaced Farrell as Jays manager -- countered with a right-hander, Esmil Rogers. And that made a difference.

Gomes managed to work a walk off Rogers, took third when Dustin Pedroia doubled to the wall in center, and scored on a smash by Mike Napoli that knocked down Toronto third baseman Macier Izturis.

That proved to be the eventual winning run on a night in which Rays leadoff man Jose Reyes introduced himself to the Sox as a potential division-changer with a four-hit performance that included a game-tying homer in the seventh, Mike Napoli went deep for his first homer in a Sox uniform and the first home run in four games for the team, shortstop Jose Iglesias left the game with a bruised right arm after being hit by a pitch, and Sox closer Joel Hanrahan converted a white-knuckle save opportunity.

Jose Reyes, Will Middlebrooks
Jays SS Jose Reyes made a big splash in his AL East debut. Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks had a good day too.
Will Middlebrooks homered to lead off the ninth against Jays reliever Jeremy Jeffress to give Hanrahan some room to work with. Throwing a fastball that registered 98 mph, Hanrahan became the first Sox pitcher to solve Reyes, retiring him on a foul pop fly after missing with his first three pitches. He came back with a 99 mph fastball to strike out Emilio Bonifacio, but walked Melky Cabrera when he missed badly with a full-count fastball. That brought up Edwin Encarnacion, a power threat who had a three-run home run the day before off Terry Francona's Indians.

Hanrahan induced Encarnacion on a ground ball to second, and gave his glove one emphatic punch as Dustin Pedroia flipped to Napoli to end it.

It was a nightmarish night for Bonifacio, who made three errors and whiffed four times.

But an energized crowd of 45,328 in Rogers Centre served notice that baseball may be back in a place that just 20 years ago routinely drew 50,000 a night when the Jays had annual attendance of 4 million-plus, which coincided with Toronto's back-to-back World Series titles (1992-93).

The Jays haven't been back to the postseason since, but after a blockbuster trade that netted them Reyes and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, and the signing of National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, they have been a popular pick to play in October.

The Sox, meanwhile, have been a popular pick to finish the season. But with Felix Doubront bobbing and weaving through five innings and another strong effort by the bullpen -- Reyes' home run off Junichi Tazawa the only blemish -- the Sox assured themselves of returning home Monday with no worse than a .500 record.

TWISTS AND TURNS

* The Jays were playing without two stars -- slugger Jose Bautista (jammed ankle, day to day) and Brett Lawrie (strained oblique). But on this night, the Sox may have exposed Toronto's vulnerable underbelly -- a still unproven bullpen.

* Iglesias was lifted for pinch hitter Ciriaco in the fourth after taking a fastball from Josh Johnson in his right forearm in the second inning. He stayed in the game long enough to turn an exquisite force play from deep in the hole, but was clearly in pain. Ciriaco responded with an RBI single and added a double.