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Saturday, June 29, 2013
Red Sox burned by Jose Bautista

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- A few takeaways from the Toronto Blue Jays' 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox at the Fens on Saturday:

• By the end of the season, Jose Bautista could rank as the active opponent with the most home runs at Fenway Park, given that the two players currently ahead of him are Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi, neither of whom are good bets to be around in 2014 -- A-Rod because he is radioactive, Giambi because his AARP card kicks in.

Tazawa
Junichi Tazawa has an 8.03 ERA in 12 career appearances against the Blue Jays.

Bautista had his second two-homer game of the season at Fenway Saturday. The first home run, off Felix Doubront, was a solo shot over the Monster that made it 2-0 in the sixth. The second, off Junichi Tazawa, flew into the light tower in left center to break a 2-2 tie in the eighth. Bautista has 16 career home runs at Fenway, with the Doubront home run providing a keepsake of some import: It was the 200th home run of his career.

"Very good player," said Sox manager John Farrell of Bautista, whom he managed for two seasons in Toronto. "Obviously, he's capable of hitting balls out of the ballpark every time he steps in the box. He gets a 2-and-0 cutter from Doubront for the first solo home run. Against Tazawa, a 2-and-1 split that kind of drifted back toward the middle of the plate, inner half to Bautista."

• And let's hear it for the attendant from the Lansdowne Street parking garage who retrieved the milestone ball and brought it to Bautista after the game, asking for nothing in return. "He was nice enough not to ask for anything," an appreciative Bautista told reporters afterward.

• Bautista also made a big play afield when he threw out Shane Victorino at the plate when he tried to score from second base on Dustin Pedroia's single with no outs in the sixth.

Farrell and Victorino both defended the green light by third-base coach Brian Butterfield. Farrell said it took Bautista to throw a 250-foot strike to get the out; Victorino said the Sox have played an aggressive style all season and weren't going to stop now.

But the standup guy from Maine took ownership of his decision. "On this one, I'll take the hit," Butterfield said in the clubhouse afterward.

• Got to love that Butterfield, a huge Patriots fan, was wearing a Tom Brady bathrobe as he went for his postgame shower.

• Another play that backfired on Farrell and the Red Sox was a bunt by Jonathan Diaz with runners on first and third and no outs in the seventh. Diaz was making his major league debut Saturday; Farrell said the play was supposed to be a safety squeeze, designed to keep the Sox out of the double play, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia was erased at the plate by pitcher Darren Oliver as he tried to score, as the 42-year-old Oliver is evidently more spry than the Sox expected him to be.

"Barehands it, throws it sidearm, fortunately throws a strike for them to cut down [Saltalamacchia] at the plate," Farrell said. "We were looking to stay out of the double play. First and third, a safety squeeze is typically, when it's executed, a high percentage play."

The previous night, Farrell had sent up Jonny Gomes to pinch hit in the seventh inning, and Gomes delivered a tiebreaking single. With another lefty on the hill Saturday, why not go back to that proven formula?

Because, Farrell said, all lefties are not created equal, and Gomes doesn't have a hit against Oliver, who has retired him five times while walking him once. You can argue that's a small sample size, especially when the potential pinch hitter is a guy who is on record as saying he'd take one in the neck to help his team.

But there is also this: In the last season and a half, Oliver has held righties to a .181 average (28-for-155), a mark that falls to .146 (7-for-48) in 2013. The Sox don't ignore those kinds of numbers.

The other factor, Farrell said: "I didn't want to sacrifice defense in the seventh inning." Not exactly a ringing endorsement for what Brandon Snyder, who would have entered to play third, brings to the table.

"That was the play right there," Farrell said of the bunt. "There were a couple of options, and knowing what Jon Diaz is capable of doing -- and that's one of them -- he's a very good bunter. That was the choice made."

The bunt wasn't bad. And we'll get back to you as soon as a stats analyst/tweeter weighs in on whether a safety squeeze really qualifies as a high percentage play. Seems like there's an awful lot that can go wrong. And the Sox tied the score anyway when Victorino delivered a two-run single.

• Just guessing, but here's a short list of things that make Tazawa break out in a rash:

  1. Tim Horton's doughnuts;
  2. Don Cherry's sports jackets;
  3. "O Canada";
  4. Anything connected to the Cyanocitta cristata, also known as the blue jay.

Tazawa has been a highly dependable reliever for the Red Sox, except when facing Toronto. This is the third time the Jays have beaten him this season, and in his career, he has an 8.03 ERA in a dozen appearances (12⅓ IP, 11 ER).

"I know the fact I'm giving up runs against Toronto," Tazawa said through translator C.J. Matsumoto. "Maybe I'm pressing a little bit, but I'll try to get back to them the next time out. They certainly have very good hitters, but I am confident that if I pitch the way that I can, I can get them out."

• First baseman Mike Napoli had the fourth four-strikeout game of his career -- third this season, second this month -- and the first in which he was also charged with an error. Napoli booted a grounder in the ninth when third baseman Diaz also erred, and the Jays tacked on two more runs.

Napoli became the third player in the majors to break the 100-K threshold this season, his four-K game giving him 102. Chris Carter of the Astros had 109 coming in to the day; Dan Uggla of the Braves had 101.

Napoli has actually been whiffing with less regularity as the season has progressed, going from 40 K's in April to 38 in May and 24 in June. He also has hit for a passable average this month (.264) while drawing 10 walks in 84 plate appearances.

But he has just two extra-base hits this month, the fewest in any month in which he has been healthy in his career. Napoli is a notorious streak hitter, but with Will Middlebrooks back in the minors and Napoli not hitting for power, there is very little in the lineup to protect David Ortiz, who is being pitched to accordingly.

Ortiz has still managed 15 extra-base hits (seven home runs) this month, the most on the team. The hobbled Stephen Drew, surprisingly, is second with 13 (eight doubles, three triples, two HRs).