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Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sox come in through rear window, 7-6

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- The Red Sox right-fielder had vertigo. The wind was north by northwest. And the birds (Blue Jays) were in town. This wasn’t a ballgame, it was a Hitchcock festival.

Lackey
Despite giving up six runs in six innings, John Lackey picked up the victory for the Red Sox on Monday night.
But this one, a 7-6 Sox win over Toronto Monday night in Fenway Park, was more slapstick than suspense.

The first two innings took more than an hour to play. Six straight Blue Jays reached base in the top of the second inning against Sox starter John Lackey. The only thing that went right in the inning for Lackey was when the umpires reviewed Alex Gonzalez’s liner off the top of the Monster and decided that it wasn’t a home run, upholding the ruling on the field that the former Sox shortstop had merited a double, no more.

The Sox, who had scored twice in the first inning on a walk, Dustin Pedroia’s double and a two-run single by Victor Martinez, countered by scoring four more runs in the bottom of the second on one hit, an RBI single by David Ortiz. There were six walks in the inning -- three in a row by Jays starter Brandon Morrow -- and a throwing error by second baseman Aaron Hill while he was attempting to complete a double play.

Morrow threw 67 pitches, fewer than half (32) for strikes, and had more walks (6) than outs (5) when Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston finally went to the bullpen.

“Something to be said for patience,’’ Sox manager Terry Francona said. “Morrow was having a tough time commanding. We didn’t go out of the zone and we got some runs. He’s got a tremendous arm. If you leave the zone, it can make for a long night.’’

Lackey, meanwhile, “reeled it back in,’’ in Francona’s words, to survive six innings. He gave up a two-run home run to Jose Bautista in the fifth that made it 7-6, but had matters much more in hand than when he began. Lackey was credited with the win, improving his record to 4-1, when three Sox relievers -- Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon -- took the air out of the night with three hitless, scoreless innings of relief.

“Tonight the boys took care of me, man,’’ said a buoyant Lackey. “It is all about the bullpen and the offense tonight. We won despite me.’’

Lackey said the slow start to the game made little impact.

“I needed ‘em all, man,’’ Lackey said of the seven runs scored by the Sox, the last coming in the third, when a throwing error by Gonzalez led to an unearned run -- his seventh E, to 4 by Scutaro, who also threw one away Monday night.

“No, you’ll never hear me complain about runs. I’ll wait all night as long as they want to hit. That’s definitely a good thing about going third [in the rotation]. I didn’t win a whole lot of these going first [with his former team, the Angels].’’

A few other random observations:

Penmanship

Papelbon racked up his ninth save -- Neftali Feliz of the Rangers and Kevin Gregg of the Jays led the league with nine at the outset of the night -- and had his third straight outing in which he pitched a clean inning. After walking eight batters in his first eight appearances, including three outings in which he walked two batters, Papelbon has walked just one batter in his last seven outings, spanning 6 2/3 innings, while striking out seven.

Bard, meanwhile, has been absolutely dominating in Fenway Park, where opposing hitters are batting just .128 (5 for 39) against him. He also has been tough on lefties everywhere, holding them to a .121 average (4 for 33).

Okajima also has had four straight scoreless appearances in which he has not allowed a base-runner after a rough stretch that inflated his ERA to 7.04 on April 26. It’s still high, but obviously trending in the right direction.

“It’s fun, especially when you see it from the other side,’’ Lackey said of watching the pen do its thing. “It’s different, for sure, now that you’re on the inside, the way their pitches move, the way they go about getting guys out. They’re fun to watch. They have great stuff and really executed pitches tonight. They made it look pretty easy against an offense that’s pretty good.’’

Time to close the polls?

David Ortiz, who moved back into the fifth hole in the lineup Monday night when J.D. Drew was a late scratch, drove in a run with a second-inning single, pulling a 94 mile-an-hour fastball into right field for a line single.

Ortiz now has hits against three straight hard throwers: Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett of the Yankees and Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays, a persuasive argument that he can still get around on the inside fastball, at least intermittently.

In his last seven games, Ortiz is batting .280 (7 for 25) with 3 home runs, a double and 6 RBIs. He’s still striking out a lot (9 K’s), but that’s to be expected.

The Jays have a lefty starting Tuesday night (Dana Eveland), so Ortiz is likely to yield again to Mike Lowell, but at .185, the Mendoza line is coming within sight. Ortiz has vowed to emerge from his slow start, just as he did last season, and this may be the beginning.

Dizziness drops Drew

J.D. Drew experienced a bout of vertigo just before Monday’s game and was a late scratch from the lineup, leaving the Red Sox without their hottest hitter on the homestand. Drew was batting .500 on the homestand (12 for 24, 9 runs, 5 RBIs) but ceded his position to Jonathan Van Every on Monday night.

He missed a couple of games with vertigo in 2008, and had another bout in Toronto when the Red Sox visited there last month but was able to play. He started feeling better Monday night, manager Terry Francona said, but when he tried moving around midgame he started experiencing symptoms again.

“He looked like me coming off a boat,’’ Francona said.

Drew said he has experienced vertigo, a condition causing dizziness, at various times in his career, but has never had to miss more than a game or two.

No Mac attack

Outfielder Darnell McDonald, an immediate contributor when called up after injuries to Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, has hit a slide. In his last 10 games, he is batting .162 (6 for 37), with 13 strikeouts.

Cameron began a rehab assignment Monday night in Pawtucket and had a double, walk and run scored in four plate appearances.