The past seven days have been a surrealistic nightmare for the Boston Red Sox…
…taking a Texas sized spanking in their three game roadie against the Rangers, this after Toronto Blue Jays’ commentator Jack Morris accused Sox starter Clay Buchholz of throwing KY balls against the ‘Jays – returning home to get slugged in the teeth by the Minnesota Twins, all the while losing their only two pitchers with protracted closing experience to injury.
So, losers of six of their last seven games – the only win an extra inning walkoff against the Twins on Tuesday – their week got worse as it went along, to the point that Sox fans came into Friday night’s series opening game with those same Toronto Blue Jays not expecting much…
…which is exactly what they got, in the form of Red Sox starter Jon Lester tossing an absolute gem – a one hit, complete game shutout of their nemesis from north of the border, the 5-0 win a temporary tonic to soothe the soul after a tough week all around for the Sox.
Lester struck out five Jays’ and issued no free passes, taking advantage of the aggressiveness of the Toronto batters, keeping them off balance with a variety of filthy pitches that either had the Jays’ flailing helplessly at the ball or handcuffed in amazement.
He was throwing everything,” Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia said. “I think he used our aggressiveness against us a little bit. He’s pretty special when you could throw cutter, sinker, four-seam, hook, changeup, and on both sides of the plate. The guy’s one of the best in the game for a reason. He showed that tonight.”
Not on Friday night, not when your starter goes the distance, giving up only a clean double to Macier Izturis after retiring the first sixteen batters he faced, then mowing down the last 11 straight for the 10th complete game of his career and the third shutout.
As for the one pitch that got away, Sox catcher Jerrod Saltlamaccia was taking it pretty hard, “As soon as the game was over I started thinking about it,” he said. “Changeup, first pitch. I’m going to have nightmares about it to be honest with you.”
Lester was taking it in stride: “If that ball’s two feet to (the) left, it’s right at him, Good pitch, what we wanted to throw especially to an aggressive hitter. He did a good job of hitting it.” Lester said after the game, “The no-hitter, perfect game, all that stuff, the stars got to be perfectly aligned for you.”
In contrast, Jays’ starter Ramon Ortiz was having a difficult time finding his spots, giving up four hits and five walks in five innings of work – yet was trailing only 1-0 to the light hitting Sox of late, Daniel Nava scoring from third on a throwing error by Izturis…
…but perhaps manager John Gibbons should have let him be, as the wheels came off of the Blue Jays’ wagon when he was lifted in favor of reliever Brett Cecil.
Singles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino started the seventh inning for Boston, both moving up on a wild pitch by Cecil, then Dustin Pedroia singled in a run, but the next two batters struck out. With two outs in the inning, the Sox strung together consecutive doubles from Saltalamacchia and Middlebrooks and suddenly a close game was a blow out.
The Sox struggles at the plate continued, and left runners stranded in each of the first seven innings, a struggle that manager John Farrell acknowledged indirectly after the game. “In the seventh we were able to bunch some hits together, which was kind of elusive.”
Despite the continuing mediocrity at the plate and the volatility of the bullpen situation, this night belonged to Jon Lester who, as it turns out, would have been the winner regardless of the four run seventh from his offense…
…but the reality is that the Red Sox have very identifiable and fixable issues to attend to, taking advantage of opportunities at the plate and finding some consistency from the bullpen being tops on the list – but having your starter pitch a complete game, one hit shutout will mask a lot of problems, if for only one game.