Grand opening, then slammed
Clement rocked in second start
Matt Clement sat in the dugout after getting the last out of the top of the second inning, a frame in which he gave up six runs, including a grand slam to Toronto's Vernon Wells. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
Perhaps, for a moment last night, as he was being cuffed around for six runs in a seemingly endless second inning, Matt Clement wished he'd taken his act to Toronto when he could have. By accepting a couple million dollars less in December 2004 he could have moved to a place where he'd buy his gas by the liter, buy lunch with blue $5 bills, watch football games in which a missed field goal still nets a point, and pitch for the Blue Jays, instead of against them.
Such a decision might have been wise, for in Clement's season-plus here in Boston he's labored mightily when the Jays show up. Last night's 8-6 loss underscored a rather unsettling theme made painfully obvious to the largest crowd at Fenway Park (36,524) in 60 years.
Clement, in 27 starts for the Sox vs. United States-based teams: 14-4, 4.11 ERA.
Clement, in five starts vs. Toronto: 0-3, 9.45 ERA (28 runs on 36 hits in 26 2/3 innings).
Why the marked division?
''If I had [an answer] to this point I wouldn't be sitting here with a loss tonight," Clement said. ''I have to go to the drawing board."
Toronto tagged Clement for eight hits last night, six of them singles, but they were not, as they must be, scattered. Five of the eight hits came in the second inning, as the Jays batted around. Eric Hinske singled. Greg Zaun doubled to the base of the Wall, plating Hinske. Alex Rios singled. Clement managed an out, when No. 9 hitter Aaron Hill grounded into a fielder's choice, with Zaun caught in a rundown. But then the procession continued.
Russ Adams singled, scoring Rios. And then Frank Catalanotto, who ran up a 1.022 OPS against the Sox last year (16 hits, 10 extra-base hits, 12 RBIs) walked, reaching base for the second of what would be four times on the night, loading the bases.
And up came Vernon Wells. Clement hadn't given up a grand slam since 2000, the year he led the majors in walks and wild pitches, ranked second in hit batsmen, and gave up four slams. He'd cleaned things up since. But, on a 1-and-1 count, Clement left a cut fastball over the inner half that Wells crushed to center. It did not come down until it had cleared Dustan Mohr, the center-field wall, and the camera stand, crashing off the retaining wall.
''Cutter away," Clement said, when asked about the intended pitch type and location. ''I left it up and over the plate. Probably didn't get enough action at the end of it to save me."
Wells's laser to center made it Jays 6, Sox 1, and for the second consecutive night the Sox were effectively sunk by a starting pitcher. Last night, Clement needed 44 pitches to get through two innings. David Wells, Wednesday, needed 50. Both lasted only four-plus innings (Clement faced three batters in the fifth, Wells two, with neither recording an out). Combined, Toronto racked them for 18 hits and five walks, equating to approximately three base runners per innings.
Clement, at the end of spring training, had expressed more excitement about his sinker/slider combination than at any point in his Sox career. Now, though he's pitched twice, and has allowed four runs in an inning (the seventh inning at Baltimore last weekend) and six runs in an inning (the second inning last night). And he's having difficulty keeping that sinker down.
''I don't think my enthusiasm for his potential success this year has dampened because of a bad inning," manager Terry Francona said.
Meanwhile, Ted Lilly was his usual self. He's a rather average major league pitcher -- he climbed to .500 (45-45) last night -- but against the Sox he is transcendent. Last night he fanned 10 and walked none in seven innings, allowing a lone run (David Ortiz's RBI single that provided an ephemeral 1-0 lead).
Lilly, lifetime, has piled up 10 Ks in a game only six times but four have come against the Sox. Last night he was at his most untouchable when he needed to be: Manny Ramírez, leading off the fourth, lined a single to left, snapping an 0 for 12. Jason Varitek then singled. No outs, two on for Mike Lowell, Mohr, and Wily Mo Peña.
Lowell fanned looking at a curveball that appeared to be outside. Mohr, set up beautifully by Lilly, looked at a dastardly inside fastball. And Peña swung at something high and offspeed. Inning over.
Lilly, after Varitek's single, did not allow another hit. In fact, he would have set down the final 12 he faced in order if not for a throwing error by his shortstop, Adams, in the seventh that forced him to face one more batter.
''Four-seamer, sinker, changeup, slider both sides, curveball . . . " Varitek said, rattling off Lilly's seemingly endless repertoire that can leave a hitter looking for something and standing around, still waiting for that pitch, while the umpire rings him up. Such was the case five times last night, as Lilly hung five backwards Ks. The Sox, on the night, fanned 13 times, seven times looking, against four pitchers.
But they did make a game of this. Ortiz, as he did a night earlier, did the best he could to dig the Sox out of a hole, powering a Brian Tallet pitch down the line and just by the Pesky Pole in the eighth inning for homer No. 4 of his season, his third in as many days, and his 22d career against the Blue Jays. That cut it to 8-3.
In the ninth, Toronto rolled out righthander Jason Frasor. After fanning Lowell looking, Frasor went to 3 and 2 on pinch hitter J.T. Snow and Peña, walking both. Pinch hitter Alex Cora flied out to right, before Frasor went to another full count, this on Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis fouled off a 3-and-2 offering, then laced the next pitch -- Frasor's 30th -- over Catalanotto (who was replaced after the play in left by Reed Johnson).
Youkilis's double plated Snow and Peña, pulling the Sox within 8-6. In came closer B.J. Ryan, who Ortiz battled to a full count last June before crushing a walkoff shot to dead center. This time, the encounter required only one pitch.
''He gave me a good pitch to hit," Ortiz said later, dressed head to toe, rather appropriately, in blue. ''Just didn't hit it right."
He hit it a mile high but only about 350 feet to right, where Rios settled beneath it.