By Michael Vega
Largely devoid of any drama until a rally in the ninth inning produced a pair of runs, the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss Friday night to the Blue Jays was rich in subtext. Much of it surrounded the return of Toronto manager John Farrell to Fenway Park, where the former Sox pitching coach was coveted as Terry Francona’s successor after last season’s meltdown.
With Sox manager Bobby Valentine on the hot seat and his physically and emotionally battered team fighting to prevent from falling to the bottom of the American League East, Farrell insisted his only focus was his team.
Sox starter Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard combined to give up three home runs.
“They’re a home-run hitting team and we were trying to stay away from the home run,’’ Valentine said. “But we gave up a few.’’
After returning home from a 1-8 West Coast trip, the Sox continued their losing ways, suffering their 14th loss in 18 games and dropping into a fourth-place tie with the Blue Jays in the division. The Sox are 5-8 vs. the Jays this season and 2-5 at Fenway. Friday night’s announced crowd of 37,156 braved a 1-hour-18-minute rain delay at the start and then watched the Sox slip and slide to a 5-0 deficit.
“How old is it getting?’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “I mean, the questions are.’’
And the mounting losses? “That too,’’ said an exasperated Pedroia, who recorded his 400th career RBI on a fielder’s choice in the fifth and hit his 13th homer of the season, a leadoff shot in the eighth that made it 5-3.
It was hard for Pedroia to take any satisfaction in any personal achievement.
“We’re trying to come out and play winning baseball,’’ he said. “We haven’t played well the last few weeks, the last couple of months, and we’ve got to try to find a way to put a good game together and build on it.’’
Doubront (10-8), who was not available to speak to the media afterward, remained winless since July 18. In four innings, he allowed five runs on six hits, including a solo homer by Edwin Encarnacion that made it 2-0 in the third and a two-run shot by Moises Sierra in the fourth that made it 4-0.
“He had made a couple of good changeup pitches away and [Encarnacion] went up there looking for it and hit a home run on it,’’ Valentine said. “The young guy Sierra, on a 3-and-1 pitch, Felix kind of grooved a fastball and he hit it a long way.’’
Doubront departed in the fifth after allowing Colby Rasmus’s leadoff triple to center. Doubront was charged with the run when Yunel Escobar hit a bloop single down the line in right off Clayton Mortensen to make it 5-0.
Mortensen, who retired the next five batters and struck out the side in the sixth, combined with Chris Carpenter and Rich Hill to throw four scoreless frames. Rasmus belted a two-run homer off Bard in the ninth, making it 7-3.
It was Bard’s third homer allowed in as many appearances since he was called up Aug. 30 from Pawtucket.
“Two-strike pitch there at the end and Daniel was one strike away from getting out of the darn thing,’’ Valentine said. “He left the slider up.’’
Trailing, 4-0, the Sox threatened in the fourth when Cody Ross reached on a leadoff double to left, the team’s first extra-base hit of the night. Ross went to third on a ground out, but was stranded when Henderson Alvarez got Jarrod Saltalamacchia to fly to left and Mike Aviles to ground to second.
The Sox finally got on the board in the fifth on Pedroia’s 400th career RBI.
Mauro Gomez, who celebrated his 28th birthday Friday, hit a pinch RBI single in the seventh that made it 5-2 before Pedroia’s solo shot in the eighth made it 5-3.
With two outs in the ninth, Gomez belted a two-run homer off Brandon Lyon, scoring Aviles, who drew a one-out walk. Lyon, however, struck out Scott Podsednik swinging to end the game, extending the Red Sox’ misery.
Asked if he saw any light at the end of the tunnel, Pedroia said, “I don’t know. I’m just focused on tomorrow and trying to help our ballclub win.’’