Red Sox can't hold off rejuvenated Blue Jays after Beckett falters in the eighth
TORONTO -- For seven innings last night, Josh Beckett was calm, economical, and next to untouchable. He was well on his way to equaling Curt Schilling's impeccable 4-0 record and doing so in brilliant fashion. It must have felt like he was back in the National League, because he'd completed seven innings in a mere 78 pitches, the same number A.J. Burnett needed to navigate four innings before exiting with pain in his elbow. When the 25-year-old righthander walked out for the eighth, Terry Francona was thinking one thing: ''Complete game." And so, too, was Beckett, who held a 6-2 lead.
And yet, just before midnight last night, there was Beckett, lamenting a 7-6, 12-inning loss, pinned unjustly on Keith Foulke, who walked Troy Glaus with two outs in the 12th on a borderline full-count pitch, then yielded to Rudy Seanez, who threw only two pitches, the second of which Lyle Overbay obliterated, sending to the right-center-field gap, allowing Glaus to come all the way around to score.
''I definitely put the blame on me," Beckett said. ''I know I didn't end up with the 'L' beside my name but it's totally my fault. I'm quite embarrassed about it.
''The thing I'm most upset about is burning the damn bullpen. That's a game I've got to go out and finish and give the bullpen a day off. I don't know if I got too far ahead of myself or what."
What happened was the Sox, 10-0 this season when leading after seven innings before last night, unraveled, after steadily building a lead against Burnett. Burnett, who'd fanned Manny Ramírez swinging at 97-mile-per-hour heat in the second inning, looked just as good in the third, when he fanned Kevin Youkilis on a blistering fastball away.
But he slipped.
Mark Loretta stung a single to center, prolonging the inning for David Ortiz and Ramírez. Ortiz golfed the next pitch, a low 96-m.p.h. fastball that would have been Ball 1, out to right-center. That was homer No. 7 of the season, and RBIs Nos. 13 and 14. Ramírez, who had not gone more than 10 games to begin a season without a homer, came to bat homerless in 55 at-bats this season with just 14 hits, 13 of them singles.
But Burnett left a fastball up and over the outside of the plate, a place few hitters can reach with power but a place Ramírez can go with precision and authority, usually on demand. He hammered it approximately 398 feet to right-center for a 3-0 lead. His 436th career homer also represented his 200th in a Sox uniform, making him only the fourth player to hit 200 home runs for two teams, joining Jimmie Foxx, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro. It also signified the ninth time Ortiz and Ramírez have gone back to back (once in 2003, six times in '04, and once in '05).
Toronto got two runs back in the fourth when Vernon Wells powered a 96-m.p.h. Beckett fastball into the seats in right-center with Frank Catalanotto (walk) aboard, marking the first homer Beckett had allowed in a Sox uniform and the first hit he allowed last night.
The Sox gave Beckett some cushion. Jason Varitek, down to .217 with no homers entering his sixth-inning at-bat, hung a ''1" in the ''HR" column. Hitting righthanded, he deposited a Scott Downs slider into the right-field stands for a 4-2 lead. In the eighth, with Ortiz on after a single, Ramírez erupted again, with a dome-scraping blast, again to the opposite field, this time off Scott Schoeneweis, for a 6-2 lead.
''When he hits the ball to right field like a lefthanded hitter, he's covering the plate," Francona said. ''And [home runs] will come in bunches."
The Sox would go on to load the bases with two outs in the inning; Mike Lowell singled, Willie Harris walked (he'd whiffed his three previous ABs), and Alex Gonzalez was hit high up on his left shoulder by a Jason Frasor breaking ball. Youkilis fanned with the bases full, falling to 0 for 5 on the night. That would be costly.
Beckett, with his first pitch of the eighth, hit No. 9 hitter Aaron Hill. Beckett had not hit a batter all season, and the timing suggested he might have been paying Toronto back for hitting Gonzalez up high. Home plate ump Jeff Kellogg warned the dugouts.
''Anybody who was watching the game knows I didn't do it on purpose because they got Alex Gonzalez on a slider the inning before," Beckett said. ''It looks bad, but there was absolutely no purpose at all."
Regardless, it was the catalyst for what came next.
''He was as good as good can be until that inning," Wells said.
Four pitches after hitting Hill, shortstop Russ Adams turned on a Beckett changeup for a two-run homer, to close it to 6-4. Beckett attempted to throw a 2-and-1 changeup down and away. Instead, he left it up, at 91 m.p.h. Two pitches later, Wells homered again, ending Beckett's night.
''Just bonehead pitches," Beckett said.
''I don't know if he did [hit Hill intentionally] or not," Wells said, ''but it was definitely a pitch that got us going. I don't know whether it was on purpose or not. Nobody's going to know except for him, but it definitely got everything going for us."
The hit batsman, Mike Timlin conceded, ''probably fired them up a little bit." Timlin, who allowed only two homers last season -- both in this park -- relieved Beckett, got ahead of Glaus, 0 and 2, then left a fastball over the plate. Home run. Tie game. Timlin couldn't finish the inning, handing over two runners to Jonathan Papelbon, who got Eric Hinske to ground out. He'd work two more scoreless innings -- the 10th and 11th -- and remains unscored upon in 10 1/3 innings this season.
With Timlin and Papelbon burned, it was up to Foulke. He allowed a one-out, one-hop double off the wall in left-center to Alex Rios in the 11th. Hill flied to right, sending Rios to third with two outs. But Foulke -- who had yet to enter a game this season that was tied or with the Sox ahead by fewer than three runs -- ripped off a brilliant changeup to get Adams swinging to send it to the 12th. Foulke got two quick outs in the 12th before walking Glaus.
Francona then came for the ball, which he gave to Seanez.
''I love Foulke facing lefthanders," Francona said. ''What I didn't want to have happen was us lose a game because he was out of gas. Rudy had handled him."
Indeed, Foulke had thrown 37 pitches and Overbay was 0 for 4 lifetime against Seanez. But he made it 1 for 5, with authority, sending Glaus galloping around the bases before 28,333 at the Rogers Centre.