TORONTO - Manny Delcarmen figured the score in this personal duel was 3-1.
Having gotten the better of Frank Thomas last season, and having been victimized by the slugger last night, Delcarmen gave himself the edge, but not by much. Turns out he was underestimating his performance.
In the wake of Thomas's two-out, two-run double that broke a seventh-inning tie and propelled the Blue Jays to a 6-3 win over the Red Sox, the miscalculation was understandable. In truth, Thomas was 1 for 7 with three strikeouts against Delcarmen before last night. But even that knowledge probably wouldn't have relieved much of the pain Delcarmen suffered in front of a sellout crowd of 50,171 in the Jays' home opener.
"I keep seeing it as one pitch away the whole time I was up there," Delcarmen said. "One pitch away. That's baseball."
On a night that didn't exactly go as planned for the Sox bullpen, three relievers combined to surrender the game after J.D. Drew's three-run homer tied it in the top of the seventh. David Aardsma entered to start the bottom of the inning and walked David Eckstein on 11 pitches.
Then came Javier Lopez to face Matt Stairs. But Shannon Stewart batted for Stairs and singled off the lefthander, prompting manager Terry Francona to hand the game over to Delcarmen with two on, no outs, and the Blue Jays' 3-4-5 hitters due up. Two foul pop outs to Kevin Youkilis and it was Thomas's turn.
"You just want to go in and try to get the job done," said Delcarmen, who left a changeup up to Thomas. "I got the first two guys out, Vernon Wells and [Alex] Rios, two big outs. Then you have Thomas come up; he's one of the best hitters in the game. Just try to make quality pitches, not make mistakes. I guess I left it up a little bit; he took advantage and hit it in the gap."
For five innings, Boston's Tim Wakefield and Toronto's Shaun Marcum were locked in a scoreless standoff. But Wakefield gave up three runs in the sixth, starting with Stairs's leadoff home run to right. Toronto's surge continued with RBI singles by Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill, scoring Rios and Thomas, who had both walked. Hill's single was a bit controversial, as the ball came out of the glove of Jacoby Ellsbury after a few steps and a meeting with a lit scoreboard in left-center field.
"It was just one bad inning; luck went their way," Wakefield said. "I thought we had [Thomas, on a pickoff attempt at second]. Dustin [Pedroia] said he tagged him, but the call didn't go our way. That's an inning that they got all the breaks. Popup Manny [Ramírez] lost in the lights, couldn't see it, that ended up scoring a run. The ball Jacoby caught and then ran into the wall and [it] fell out of his glove, scored another run. Just one of those weird plays. The whole inning was that way."
But the Sox struck right back. Drew, who had a grand slam and a three-run homer against Japanese teams in exhibitions in Tokyo before sustaining a back strain prior to the season opener, smashed a Marcum pitch over the right-field wall after a walk to David Ortiz and a single by Mike Lowell.
That blast came after Marcum dominated for 6 2/3 innings (one hit, eight strikeouts) that "tied us in knots," manager Terry Francona said. Drew hit a cut fastball to take Wakefield off the hook.
That was only after Drew had struck out twice on six pitches against Marcum, who came in with a 2-1 career record and 2.77 ERA against Boston.
"He was very effective, mixed all his pitches up well, really had me off balance most of the night," Drew said. "Was just able to keep my hands inside of a nice cutter in. Still, I thought it was a pretty good pitch after watching it on tape.
"He was mixing his pitches, really didn't have any one thing to key in on, so he was very effective, kind of deceptive, tough to pick up."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.