TORONTO -- Standing before his locker last night, Matt Clement called it ``a bad day . . . inexcusable . . . very embarrassing." He categorized his last two outings (7 2/3 IP, 16 H, 14 R) as ``disastrous." He said he feels ``disappointed to the point that it's embarrassing . . . I feel like I let the team down." He said that no matter how bad it gets -- and it's as bad as a 6.91 ERA and 101 base runners, 44 of whom have scored, in 54 2/3 innings -- ``I can't feel sorry for myself."
Despite the fact that Clement was in a 6-0 crater and done for the night after just 3 1/3 innings, there was a tie game on display for the 24,038 at a muggy Rogers Centre (game-time temperature: 93 degrees) when Shea Hillenbrand delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning off David Riske for the decisive run in Toronto's 7-6 win over the Red Sox.
You might be wondering why Riske, who'd pitched only twice this season, was on the mound in the eighth inning in a tie game. Well, with Mike Timlin on the disabled list, the bullpen looks like this: Jonathan Papelbon closing, Keith Foulke setting up, Riske, Julian Tavarez, and Rudy Seanez pitching mid-to-late relief, and Manny Delcarmen and Jermaine Van Buren working long relief.
Now, begin crossing off names as options available to Terry Francona in the eighth. Van Buren (last big-league appearance: April 22) and Delcarmen (last big-league appearance: May 7) had followed Clement with 3 2/3 imperative innings of shutout relief. (``Delcarmen and Van Buren did a great job to give us a chance to win," Francona said). Tavarez and Seanez threw a combined 54 pitches Sunday vs. Tampa while walking five in the ninth inning, making them too spent and dangerous to use. Francona said he didn't want to use Papelbon in that situation, so the decision was between Riske and Foulke.
Riske, who'd felt sick this past week and pitched only once in seven days since coming off the DL, was warming up in the eighth with the Sox behind, 6-3, when Jason Varitek launched a two-out, three-run, game-tying homer off righty Justin Speier. Anyone interested in questioning Francona for using Riske ahead of Foulke might also question Toronto manager John Gibbons for keeping Speier in against Varitek with B.J. Ryan warm. Varitek vs. Speier before that at-bat: 1 for 5 with a homer. Varitek vs. Ryan: 2 for 15, 8 whiffs.
Speier got ahead 0-and-1 on Varitek. Bengie Molina set up for a fastball away but Speier yanked it, throwing one over the inner half, and Varitek turned on it. Alex Rios drifted toward the wall in the right-field corner, near the 328-foot marking. He leaped. The ball, according to the public relations folks at the Rogers Centre, covered 333 feet, and that was enough.
Mike Lowell followed with a double (No. 23, to lead the majors) and Coco Crisp lined to center.
Then Francona called upon Riske, to begin the eighth with Molina. Molina, lifetime against Foulke: 0 for 13. Why not Foulke?
``Leading off the inning?" Francona responded. ``You've got Hillenbrand coming up third. Riske's starting the inning."
Indeed, Hillenbrand is 5 for 8 with a homer off Foulke. So Francona went with Riske. Molina doubled to right center on a decent pitch. Aaron Hill sacrificed Molina to third, bringing up Hillenbrand, who shot a ball toward shortstop. Alex Gonzalez, playing in, dived but couldn't come up with it.
``We did a great job to get back in that game," Francona said. ``It's a hard way to play. You get to the bullpen that early, if anybody gives up one, it's probably too much, and it was."
Crisp and Manny Ramírez had combined with Varitek to pull the Sox back against Roy Halladay and Speier. Behind, 6-0, Crisp, hitting eighth, got a wheelhouse fastball in the fifth and jumped on it, an impressive homer given that in his six previous at-bats since coming off the DL, Crisp hadn't gotten a ball out of the infield.
Ramírez, back in the lineup after consecutive days off because of back stiffness and right knee tendinitis, appeared to have plenty of torque and balance when Halladay threw a 93 m.p.h. fastball over the plate with David Ortiz aboard and one out in the sixth. Ramirez sent a shot soaring an approximate 417 feet for his fifth homer in six games, his 12th of the year, and his 50th vs. the Jays (most by an opposing player).
The Sox had gotten into that 6-0 hole because of Clement, whose struggles are staggering, even to him. In his 3 1/3 innings, he was roughed up for six runs on seven hits, including two bombs, a two-run shot to left by Vernon Wells in the third and a 424-foot solo rip by Lyle Overbay leading off the fourth. Overbay's homer sparked a five-hit, four-run assault on Clement in the inning, leading to his exit after six batters and just one out.
Clement's right ankle, bruised by a Bernie Williams liner last week, appeared to Varitek to bother the righthander at one point in the inning. But Clement refused to blame his leg. His last batter, Rios, worked a full count, got a slider, and singled up the box.
``Rios, obviously, he was looking for [a slider]," Clement said. ``Or if he wasn't, it looked like a fastball to him."
Translation: The ball, even if it was a slider, didn't move as it was supposed to. And that's a concern. Because Clement, even when he struggled in the past, always struck guys out.
``I agree," he said.
But last night his slider wasn't sharp, and he didn't fan a single batter. He was signed in large part because of his strikeout ability, but his K's per nine innings are in decline. That stat in his three years with the Cubs: 9.44, 7.63, 9.44. In his two seasons with the Sox: 6.88, 6.26. He said he has a ``hunch" as to why he's not making hitters swing and miss at his slider.
``But I'm not going to make official what needs to get done until I look at the video," he said.
The only problem with that is something he'd said earlier in the conversation. Because of the hacks hitters are taking off him, ``I don't want to watch much video now."