|Neither Mike Lowell nor Jed Lowrie (who got an error for the bump) caught this pop. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)|
Sox hardly letter-perfect vs. Blue Jays
Rzepczynski’s fine effort spells doom
TORONTO - As a reporter struggled to pronounce the name of yesterday’s Blue Jays starter, the consonant-stretching Marc Rzepczynski, while asking how difficult he had made the game for the Red Sox, manager Terry Francona broke in. “Not as tough as that,’’ he quipped. Still, Rzepczynski had held the Sox at bay, his sinkers mining the low strike zone of plate umpire Laz Diaz.
Brad Penny, however, had done nothing of the sort, his pitches high and getting hit all over the park. With their starter struggling, the Sox played the game they were supposed to play the night before. Friday night’s game, coming off the break, with some players rested and some exhausted (their five All-Stars, especially), could have been the one in which the Sox came out flat.
Instead, they won that game behind Clay Buchholz, and dropped off behind Penny. Not that Penny helped himself much.
The Sox were coming off a stretch in which their starters had allowed three runs or fewer in each of the last seven games, going 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA, and Penny entered having allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last six starts and nine of 10. But Penny allowed six runs on eight hits over five innings, pushing his ERA to 5.02, and was the loser as the Sox fell, 6-2, to Toronto at Rogers Centre.
“I thought he left some pitches up, especially his breaking ball,’’ Francona said. “Fourth inning, he got to two outs, left a breaking ball up to [Jose] Bautista. It was a big hit in the game. One fastball to [Adam] Lind . . . but it just seemed like every time he left an offspeed pitch up, they hit it or they made him pay for it.
“We’re in a game where we’re not able to do much offensively. Had chances, had runners. Just couldn’t do much with it. When they spread it out, it made it a lot tougher for us.’’
In the fourth, the Jays’ Scott Rolen hit a one-out single to center and Lyle Overbay singled to left. Alex Rios also singled to left, driving in Rolen and breaking a 1-1 tie.
After a passed ball by George Kottaras put runners on second and third and Kevin Millar struck out looking, Bautista rocketed a curveball to the wall in center field for a double, scoring two.
The Sox ended up losing a game in the standings to the victorious Yankees, and are now two games up.
“The pitch that killed me was the hanging curveball with two outs,’’ Penny said. “You don’t want to go out there and give them a lead like that, especially when we get the lead, 1-0. I’ve got to shut them down. I just left a ball up a little bit to Bautista.
“They hit a lot of offspeed pitches today; Rolen’s the only guy who got two hits on fastballs. Just leaving my curveball up a little bit, and changeup.’’
The Sox scored once in the second inning but could have had more. Jason Bay doubled and Mike Lowell walked. Rocco Baldelli’s single scored Bay and pushed Lowell to third. Lowell was dead at the bag on the throw from the outfield but Rolen dropped the ball, Baldelli moving to second.
So there were no outs, two men in scoring position, and the newly activated Jed Lowrie at the plate.
But he struck out looking, later saying, “First at-bat I feel I like wasn’t ready to hit, but after that I felt good.’’ Kottaras popped out and J.D. Drew grounded to second.
“I think he was kind of effectively wild,’’ Lowell said of Rzepczynski. “Didn’t really miss over the middle. We were looking at his [previous] starts. I think he’s a lot more efficient around the zone. He pitched well enough. He scattered just a few hits. Really never got into any real damage.’’
The Sox got just one more hit off Rzepczynski, a double by Kevin Youkilis in the third, though Lowrie did greet Jesse Carlson rudely when he entered in the seventh. He blasted a pitch over the wall in left, giving the Sox their second run of the game, though it would not nearly be enough as Lind had added a two-run homer in the fifth off Penny.
“He’s got good sink, kept the ball down, used the strike zone to his advantage,’’ Francona said of the hard-to-hit and hard-to-say Rzepczynski. “Low-ball umpire, kept it down. When they got the lead, looked like he wanted to lose his command [but he] didn’t. We had a couple opportunities where we needed a breakthrough at-bat, and we couldn’t get it.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.