A solid spot start from Tim Wakefield wasn’t enough. Nevermind that the rubber-armed knuckleballer picked up his 2,000th strikeout along the way. Scoreless and held to only 3 hits through 8 innings, Boston’s offense was completely subdued by Shaun Marcum, Scott Downs, and the Blue Jays’ defense.
Oh, and umpire Dale Scott. Terry Francona couldn’t overlook his role.
The game started as a full-blown pitchers duel. Through 6 and a third, there was but a single run on the board– Toronto scored in the fifth on a pair of doubles by Lyle Overbay and Travis Snider. As the game headed into the top of the seventh, the Sox had only 1 hit (a David Ortiz single) and the Jays had only 3.
But Toronto’s offense was just effective enough, breaking through against Wakefield when Jose Baustista walked and Travis Snider homered to right field for a 3-0 Blue Jays’ lead.
A second single by David Ortiz was all Boston could muster against Toronto starter Shaun Marcum, who went 7 innings allowing only the 2 hits. He walked 1 and struck out 6. Thanks to Snider, Wake’s night wasn’t quite as spectacular, but still qualified as an excellent performance: 7 innings, 3 runs on 5 hits and a walk, and 5 strikeouts…including the milestone 200th K.
Unfortunately, that performance was wasted.
Manny Delcarmen and Scott Schoeneweis shut down the Jays the rest of the way, but the 3 runs proved to be sufficient. Scott Downs kept the Sox scoreless through 8 before stepping aside for closer Kevin Gregg.
For the sake of the Fenway fans, at least Gregg made things interesting.
He struck out Victor Martinez to open the inning, then allowed a single to Kevin Youkilis. J.D. lashed a deep double to put the Soxon the board, but then things got a little ugly. Gregg struck out David Ortiz looking, with a pitch that was roughly 6 inches outside. What home plate umpire Dale Scott saw in the pitch was unclear, but it was a called third strike nonetheless. Ortiz protested, but not vigorously; Francona was somewhat more vocal.
Several pitches later, the still-jawing Francona was tossed from the game. His arguments fell on deaf ears and certainly didn’t undo the bad call, but for a moment it appeared that Boston might be able to overcome the situation anyway. Adrian Beltre singled to score Drew, tightening the game to 3-2.
But with a final chance to tie, Darnell McDonald popped harmlessly to second. Though he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, Gregg (and Scott) did enough to make sure that the rally fell just shy. After the game, a fuming Ortiz summed up the magnitude of the blown call:
“Thank God I wasn’t hitting right-handed. [The pitch] would have hit me in the ribs.”
Big Papi, whose early-season struggles have been well documented, certainly doesn’t need anything more to go against him. And given that he was seeing the ball pretty well on Wednesday, the strike that wasn’t dealt a tough blow to a team in the midst of a ninth-inning comeback.
Even so, Ortiz was the only Boston player with more than 1 hit on the night, and has quietly put together a very respectable May. In case you’ve missed it, Ortiz is hitting .310 with 3 homers and 7 RBI over the last 8 games. He’s hit safely in 5 straight. One bit of good news after a frustrating series finale.
With the loss, Boston fell to 18-17, and though they won the series the inconsistency that has plagued the team all season continues to be a problem. Far too many games have featured either a lack of offense, inadequate pitching, or both; if the team can’t generate more reliable performances then the .500 mark will become all too familiar a sight in 2010.
The Sox enjoy an off day on Thursday before beginning a 3-game set in Detroit on Friday. That will be followed by a pair of matchups at Yankee Stadium and a home stand against the Twins before interleague play begins next weekend.
In the opener against the Tigers, Boston will send Clay Buchholz to the mound to face Max Scherzer. A true battle of young arms, both with major upside. Saturday will pit Jon Lester against Dontrelle Willis. Sunday’s matchup has yet to be determined, but will feature John lackey going for Boston.
The Red Sox should get Mike Cameron back for the weekend series, assuming his ongoing rehab in Pawtucket is successfully concluded. Jacoby Ellsbury is still recovering from a rib injury that has caused him to miss the majority of the season.
Josh Beckett will likely skip a start due to back spasms suffered earlier in the week. The time off may be a good thing for the struggling ace, who needs to get his bloated 7.46 ERA under control as soon as possible.