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For eight innings of Tuesday’s game against Toronto, Red Sox pitchers held the Blue Jays completely in check. In the ninth, it was the defense’s turn.
The one consistent complaint about Jonathan Papelbon this season has been his difficulty with leads of three runs or more. Staked to a 3-0 lead entering the ninth, his difficulties should have come as no surprise.
Papelbon gave up a two-strike single to left fielder Corey Patterson to lead off the inning, bringing Jose Bautista – the most dangerous power hitter in the American League – to the plate. Four pitches later, Bautisa blasted a fastball deep into the night that only came down after clanging off the light tower above the Green Monster. Bautista’s second hit of the night – and first ever off Papelbon – cut Boston’s lead to 3-2.
Papelbon used his slider to strike out first baseman Adam Lind, then gave up a single to Encarnacion. Outfielder Travis Snider hit the first pitch he saw deep to left, but McDonald positioned himself right in front of the Green Monster to catch it for the second out.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia drew a full-count walk to move Encarnacion into scoring position, leaving Toronto’s fate to shortstop John McDonald. Papelbon got McDonald down 0-2, but again could not put the hitter away, and McDonald singled to shallow left field. Darnell McDonald charged in, fielded the ball on one hop, then gunned it in to Jason Varitek, who used his left leg to block the plate before tagging Encarnacion out to win the game and get Papelbon his 18th (and not particularly deserved) save.
After four innings, it looked like it might be another historic night for Jon Lester. He hadn’t allow a hit in the first four innings, striking out five and giving up just a walk. His fastball hit 95 with movement and command, and his cutter broke sharply to the right. He threw 35 of his 50 pitches for strikes, including nine first-pitch strikes out of 13 batters. The Blue Jays couldn’t even hit Lester out of the infield until the fourth inning.
Unfortunately, four innings was all Lester could give the Red Sox. Lester suffered a strained left latissimus dorsi, an upper-back muscle beneath the shoulder, and exited the game. One team source reported that typical recovery from such a strain is two to four weeks.
Lester’s four innings meant a no-decision for the starter, and Matt Albers came on in relief. Although he gave up a single to Bautista in the sixth that cost Boston a no-hitter, Albers still went two scoreless innings, giving up a hit and two walks. He struck out two and earned his third win of the season.
Franklin Morales and Daniel Bard, Boston’s seventh- and eighth-inning pitchers, continued the pitching dominance. Morales pitched a perfect seventh on 14 pitches. Bard gave up a hit (just Toronto’s second to that point) and struck out one in a scoreless eighth, repeatedly hitting 99 with his fastball.
Boston’s offense never found a way to sustain itself against Jays starter Brett Cecil, despite his 6.15 career ERA against the Red Sox. They had to be content with brief flurries of offense, which Tuesday night turned out to be enough.
David Ortiz led off the second inning with a double to right field and moved to third on a McDonald ground out. Varitek then hit the first pitch he saw off the Green Monster to knock in Ortiz and give Boston a 1-0 lead.
J.D. Drew then bounced a grounder to second baseman Mike McCoy’s right, which McCoy got a glove on it but couldn’t stop, instead kicking it into the outfield and giving Varitek time to score from second. The play was initially ruled an error, then changed to an RBI single.
Drew and Ortiz were two of the three Red Sox to reach base more than once against Cecil, who went eight innings, giving up seven hits and two walks while striking out six in a losing effort. Both reached on a hit and a walk. Adrian Gonzalez reached on a single and a hit-by-pitch.
Clean-up hitter Dustin Pedroia hit a solo shot over the Green Monster in the third to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
Tags: Adam Lind, Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, Brett Cecil, Corey Patterson, Daniel Bard, Darnell McDonald, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Edwin Encarnacion, Franklin Morales, J.D. Drew, J.P. Arencibia, Jason Varitek, John McDonald, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Bautista, Matt Albers, Mike McCoy, MLB, Toronto Blue Jays, Travis Snider