Jays swing away
Down big, Sox come up short
“Four more years! Four more years!’’
OK, nobody was chanting that at Fenway Park last night when John Lackey came off the mound after 4 1/3 innings in which he allowed six earned runs and eight hits in a game the Red Sox lost, 11-9.
Lackey has four more years remaining on his massive contract and his 12-11 record and 4.63 ERA weren’t quite what the Red Sox had in mind when they signed him, but remember Josh Beckett’s first season with the team wasn’t a gem either.
The Sox certainly didn’t let Lackey’s quick departure prevent them from mounting a challenge. They fought right up through the ninth inning with Yamaico Navarro’s RBI single and Daniel Nava’s run-scoring double bringing the home team to within two, and forcing Cito Gaston to bring in closer Kevin Gregg.
Gregg, the fifth Toronto reliever to follow Brett Cecil, came in to face Victor Martinez, who had already homered twice, and got him to pop out to end the game.
Michael Bowden turned in the most unfortunate outing of the night. He came in for Lackey and surrendered four hits and three runs in one inning of work. By the time the Jays’ half of the sixth was over, they had a 10-2 lead.
If only Bowden could have kept the Jays close, the Sox might have been able to win the game. Nobody knows that more than Bowden, a fierce competitor who is learning the role of middle reliever on the fly.
“Of course its frustrating,’’ Bowden said. “You saw the game. Those three runs were the difference in the game, given the way we came back.
“That’s my fault. There are no excuses. I know I’m learning this as I go along, and it’s different as a reliever than it is as starter, but you can’t make a mistake like I made tonight and get away with it against a hitter like that.’’
The hitter was Jose Bautista, tops in the majors in home runs. With the Jays ahead, 8-2, with no outs in the sixth, he belted a two-run homer on a 3-and-2 fastball right down the middle of the plate. The blast into the Monster seats was his 48th of the year, setting Toronto’s season record.
“As soon as I threw it, I wished I had that pitch back,’’ Bowden said. “He’s a great home run hitter and you can’t make that pitch to a hitter like that. Sure, it’s a learning experience, but that’s just a poor pitch to make right there.’’
Martinez hit his two homers from the right side, his 16th and 17th, the latter coming in the eighth to cut the deficit to 11-7. But the offense couldn’t override the poor pitching exhibited over the first six innings.
Martinez wasn’t happy about the night’s events — even the two homers.
“It don’t matter, we lost,’’ he said.
When asked if there was any silver lining in the team’s comeback, he said, “Every loss is frustrating. I don’t see anybody enjoying any loss.’’
Truer words were never spoken.
Terry Francona said that having to comeback from a 10-2 deficit was “a tough way to play.’’ But the Sox nearly pulled this off.
Martinez, a free agent after the season, continued to make a case for a multiyear contract by slamming a two-run homer in the first inning. Eleven of his homers have come batting righthanded. Martinez has scalded lefties this season, hitting .404 (55 for 136) after last night.
As has been the case so often in 2010, Lackey couldn’t hold the lead. He’d had a shaky first inning, allowing quick singles to Fred Lewis and Yunel Escobar, but got out unscathed when Bautista popped out and Vernon Wells knocked into a 6-4-3 double play.
Lackey wasn’t so lucky an inning later when Lyle Overbay doubled off the left-field wall, Aaron Hill was hit with a pitch (eventually leaving the game with a right wrist contusion), and Adam Lind stroked a two-run double to right-center to tie the game, 2-2.
By the fifth inning, Lackey was out of control — at least Francona thought so, saying that Lackey had “misfired a couple of times’’ and was high in the strike zone. Lackey said his command was good, although he hit three batters.
He loaded the bases when Escobar singled and stole second, Bautista walked, and Wells was hit with a pitch. Pitching coach John Farrell made a visit, but it didn’t help.
Overbay, who kills Boston pitching, doubled home two runs with a line drive to right. John McDonald, who had replaced Hill, hit a sacrifice fly to left to give the Jays a 5-2 lead.
After Lind doubled down the right-field line, with the ball getting past Darnell McDonald for an error, Francona brought out the hook. Lackey left to a roar of boos.
Lackey has been especially horrible vs. the Jays, allowing 22 earned runs in 23 innings (8.60 ERA).
Then came Bowden, who started off by allowing a run-producing single to John Buck before getting a double-play grounder.
“If we can stop the bleeding right there this would have been really exciting,’’ said Francona. “Wake [Tim Wakefield, who threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings] did a great job, but we let them add on.’’
At least the Sox didn’t roll over and say good night. They rallied for three runs in the sixth against Cecil.
Marco Scutaro and Darnell McDonald set the stage with a single and double, and Martinez brought in the first run with a ground out to short. Adrian Beltre followed with a double that skimmed the wall in left-center, and after Ortiz fouled out, Mike Lowell singled up the middle to make it 10-5.
The Sox kept belting away, going through one Toronto reliever after another.
Time ran out, however. Too much damage to overcome.