Sox salvage series finale
David Pauley, who had an eventful major league debut, shows some relief after getting out of the second with a double play. (Reuters Photo)
TORONTO -- Generally speaking, the formula the Red Sox used over the past three nights is better avoided. The bullpen (12 2/3 innings) outworked the starters (12 1/3), a recipe for exhausted arms, lengthy games (they averaged 3 hours 23 minutes), and, more often than not, losses.
And the Sox did lose, conceding two of three to a ferocious-swinging Blue Jays ensemble, but the Sox did manage a win in the series, by an 8-6 count last night, despite the fact that David Pauley, in his major league debut, gave up 11 hits, the most by a Boston starter this season.
In the series, Toronto lashed out at Pauley (4 1/3 innings), Josh Beckett (4 2/3), and Matt Clement (3 1/3) for 19 runs on 28 hits. But, there was a saving grace, not merely in the person of Jonathan Papelbon (club-record 19th consecutive save to begin a season) but in those who join him in the bullpen. Sox relievers limited Toronto to nine hits and two runs, with Keith Foulke and Papelbon pitching only 2 1/3 of those 12 2/3 innings. The pen, for a few nights, did more than could be asked.
``If they don't," manager Terry Francona said, ``we don't win."
But, the bullpen doesn't look as good as it did, and Pauley is out of the game even sooner, if not for the work of the infield. This is how four of Toronto's innings ended last night: 6-3 double play, 1-6-3 double play, 5-4-3 double play, and 6-4-3 double play. The numerical recounting, though, does not do the acts justice. Then again, when has numerical evaluation ever rewarded the ``6" in those equations, light-hitting shortstop Alex Gonzalez? Mike Lowell, for one, has seen enough wizardry to know how good the Venezuelan-born Gonzalez is.
``He's in a class by himself," Lowell said.
Gonzalez's most imperative turns came in the second and sixth. In the second, with the score tied, 1-1, and the bases loaded on two walks and a hit batsman, Pauley got leadoff batter Frank Catalanotto to bounce up the middle. Pauley realized later that he should have gone home with the ball to begin a 1-2-3 double play.
``I think I let the game speed up on me and decided to go to second," he said.
Gonzalez, fortunately, had bolted for the bag, where Pauley's throw arrived, though offline.
``I knew I pulled it," Pauley said.
Gonzalez reached for it, managed to get his feet down, dance around the runner, and relay to nab Catalanotto.
``That ball has a chance to go into the outfield and they call icing," said Francona, keen on his hockey knowledge for a guy who has seen one NHL game, the Canadiens at the Forum when he played for the Expos in the '80s. ``Gonzo, whatever he did at the plate, might as well give him some RBIs. He saves runs. I know it doesn't count but it might as well."
Said Lowell: ``That's an inning that could be disastrous. He turns it into two outs."
In the sixth, with the Sox ahead, 8-6, one out, and runners on first and second against Manny Delcarmen, Lyle Overbay bounced a ball into the hole to Gonzalez's right. He got to the spot the ball was headed and, across his body, unloaded accurately to Mark Loretta covering second , starting a double play .
``There aren't many where he's not going to get to the ball," Loretta said.
That helped the Sox limit Toronto to six runs despite 18 base runners. The Sox, meanwhile, scored in five of six innings to begin the game, with single runs in the first and sixth and two apiece in the third, fourth, and fifth. Five of the eight runs came on home runs, as the Sox matched a season high with four, including two off noted Sox silencer Ted Lilly (5-3, 3.57 ERA vs. Boston in 17 games before last night). Lilly lasted just four innings, giving up five runs on five hits and four walks.
David Ortiz, homerless in 39 at-bats dating to May 19, cranked a Lilly fastball out in the first inning for a 1-0 lead, giving him 15 homers (10 in April, five in May) and 48 RBIs. Loretta, with Gonzalez (single) on base and two outs in the third, followed Ortiz's approach. He went up hacking, got a fastball up in the zone to begin the at-bat, and deposited it into the Jays bullpen, which came to life with relievers warming just about that time. That homer, only the second of Loretta's season, upped the Sox' lead to 3-1.
After the Jays got a run in third, the Sox made it 5-2 in the fourth, when Manny Ramírez led off with a walk, reached third on a Kevin Youkilis double (Youkilis batted fifth last night), and scored on a wild pitch. Youkilis came around on Coco Crisp's two-out single to left, though Lowell, who strained his left hamstring rounding third on the play, was thrown out at the plate.
Ramírez, in the fifth, upped the lead to 7-2 with a two-run blast on a 97-m.p.h. Francisco Rosario fastball. Ramírez's 51st career homer against Toronto (most by any opposing player) was also his sixth homer in eight games and his 13th of the year, all of which have come in his past 38 games.
Trot Nixon, who will be playing against lefties such as Lilly routinely now that Wily Mo Peña will miss two months following hand surgery today, came up with a solo homer, his fifth of the year and second in as many nights, in the sixth for an 8-6 lead.
The win? That went to Jermaine Van Buren, who relieved Pauley with Aaron Hill on third base after Hill's two-run triple bounced Pauley in the fifth. With one out, a runner on third, and the Sox ahead, 7-6, Van Buren got Edgardo Alfonzo to bounce back to the mound and Catalanotto to ground to second. Delcarmen (1 2/3 innings, 1 walk, 1 strikeout) followed.
Van Buren in the series: 3 1/3 scoreless. Delcarmen: 3 scoreless. A tough game to manage?
``Actually, no," Francona said. ``Because guys did such a good job. Delcarmen comes in and got us where he needed to. Once we got there we had Foulke to face guys we wanted and Papelbon behind him. We were OK. But if Manny or Jermaine doesn't do his job then we have a little bit of [difficulty]."