TORONTO -- Is it time to give these Blue Jays credit? To concede that they can hit as well as the Red Sox and Yankees, the measuring-stick offenses of the last few seasons?
``They've got good players," David Ortiz acknowledged late last night, after Vernon Wells clubbed three of Toronto's five home runs in an 8-5 Blue Jays win before 27,324 at the Rogers Centre. ``They've got good hitters. But we're not pitching the way we're supposed to. That's what I say. When we come to hit, they don't give us [anything] to hit. Why do we have to give them [something] to hit? That's it.
``I mean, the guy is hitting three homers on pretty much the same pitch, something up in the strike zone. [When] I hit one, I don't see another pitch again all night. We've got to make adjustments."
Indeed, the Sox as a club and Josh Beckett as an individual have adjustments to make against a Toronto team that has posted some staggering offensive totals. The adjustments should begin with how to handle Wells, who has 15 homers this season, eight vs. the Sox, and is 6 for 12 with four homers off Beckett, two of those coming last night.
Regardless of what the Sox do here tonight -- and the odds are stacked against them with Double A righthander David Pauley opposing Sox silencer Ted Lilly -- they will lose this series. And with that, they will fall to 1-6-3 in 10 series against the Blue Jays since the beginning of last season.
Beckett, meanwhile, is 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA vs. all teams not based in Cleveland or Toronto. He is 1-2 with a 6.38 ERA in four games vs. the Blue Jays, having allowed 17 runs on 23 hits, seven of them homers, in 24 innings. He's 1-3 with an 8.13 ERA against Toronto and Cleveland, with 10 homers allowed in those five starts.
``It's poorly executed pitches," said Beckett (7-2, 4.46 ERA), who allowed a season-high 10 hits and a career-high four homers. ``It's nobody's fault but my own. I wish it had something to do with pitch selection."
But it doesn't. It has only to do with pitch location, and he'll tell you that before anyone else. Ask Beckett if he's surprised he's had to pay so much for mistakes this year and he'll tell you, ``No. Whenever you're talking about nine hitters in a lineup, that's the way it is."
In the National League, Beckett was facing about 7.5 batters per lineup, given the near-automatic out in the pitcher's spot and the luxury to pitch around the No. 8 hitter.
``You've got to execute a high number of pitches, especially against a lineup like this or any lineup in the American League," he said.
But he didn't. Jason Varitek had singled in Coco Crisp in the top of the first, giving Beckett a 1-0 lead. But he gave three runs back in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back blasts by Wells and Troy Glaus.
Before this season, Beckett had allowed three homers in a game only once in 106 career games. Now he's allowed at least three on three occasions this year.
With one out in the first, Wells hammered a 1-and-0 changeup (88 m.p.h.) into the second deck in left for a 2-0 lead, covering approximately 415 feet with the blast. Beckett then worked ahead of Glaus, 1-and-2, but with the same result, this time on a 96-mile-per-hour fastball.
With one out in the third, Wells wasted no time, unloading on a 95 m.p.h. first-pitch fastball for a 398-foot homer.
``I don't think it matters how hard you throw, especially in the American League, if you leave a ball out over the plate," manager Terry Francona said. ``I love the velocity, but once through the order they're geared up pretty much for what you're throwing that night.
``Good major league hitters, once they get a bead on you, when you throw it in the middle, they're probably going to take a pretty good hack at it."
To begin the fifth, Glaus again came to bat. On 2-and-2 he got a hanging Beckett curveball that he hit impossibly high into the Toronto sky. Manny Ramírez lost it, throwing up his hands. With the ball somewhere over his head, and most of the stadium fooled, Ramirez turned and began running toward the wall. Perhaps he knew something no one else did because he never looked up. The ball came crashing down in the Toronto bullpen for Glaus's 17th of the year.
Beckett on the homers: ``I was trying to go down and away with a changeup to Wells. Down and away with a fastball to Wells. Fastball down and in to Glaus. Curveball down and away to Glaus."
That's where he intended for the four pitches to be. All four instead were up and over the plate.
``That's what good hitters do," Beckett said. ``They hit mistakes."
Beckett could not finish the fifth inning, leaving in a 7-2 hole after just 4 2/3 innings. A night earlier, Matt Clement lasted 3 1/3 innings, shown the door with a 6-0 deficit. But, again, the Sox had a chance to win this game.
On Monday, Varitek erased a 6-3 gap with a three-run homer in the eighth. But he couldn't replicate his clutch hitting last night.
In the sixth, with the Sox within 7-5, Varitek left the bases loaded, grounding out with two outs off righthanded reliever Jason Frasor. In the eighth, the Sox put two on for Varitek, also with two outs.
On Monday, Toronto manager John Gibbons had allowed reliever Justin Speier to face Varitek with two on and two outs in the eighth, even though closer B.J. Ryan was ready. Varitek homered, and Gibbons was kicking himself for the decision.
Last night, Speier was again on the mound when Varitek came up with two on and two outs in the eighth, representing the go-ahead run. Was Varitek facing him?
``Obviously not," the Sox catcher said.
Gibbons went to Ryan, who blew away Varitek on three pitches, the last a rising fastball clocked at 92 miles per hour.
``I just swung at some bad pitches," Varitek said.
Varitek left five on base in his last two at-bats, representative of the team as a whole (1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, 12 men left on base).