It’s a real struggle, but Red Sox hang tough to grab a win vs. Blue Jays
TORONTO - The Red Sox were stuck. They had their rock, the just-completed series against the Rangers, in which they lost the final two games and the lead in the wild-card race. They had their hard place, Roy Halladay, and his 2.65 ERA, and most especially the nine innings of one-run ball he threw against the Sox earlier this season. That left last night’s game as “Huge . . . a must win,’’ as Jonathan Papelbon put it.
“We’ve got to try to win some games,’’ David Ortiz said. “We’re against the ropes, you know? It’s all about winning games right now. That’s it. We can’t be losing games right now. You’ve got to win as many as you can - so your family can watch you in October on TV.’’
“That was a game that we really had to have,’’ Jason Bay said. “We’ve got Josh [Beckett] going and obviously they’ve got Halladay going tomorrow. It was a game that early on I think guys were comfortable that we had it with the way Josh had been pitching. He’s human. I think people forget that. It was back and forth, but ultimately one we had to have.’’
There was little beauty in the way they won. Not only did the Sox squander a four-run lead, but their winning inning, the eighth, began with a poorly executed Alex Gonzalez bunt, far too close to the pitcher’s mound. The play continued with a muffed pickup of the ball by pitcher Casey Janssen, and ended with his throw sailing past first baseman Lyle Overbay for an error. The Sox got three runs in the frame, and held on through more than a few tense moments to take a 10-9 win.
In that winning eighth, Ortiz came chugging home from third on the attempted bunt, and Nick Green moved to third. Jacoby Ellsbury’s sacrifice fly scored Green, and Victor Martinez’s double knocked in Gonzalez. The Sox should have won this game, just not in the way they did. And it shouldn’t have been nearly so hard at the end.
Like in the Toronto eighth, when Daniel Bard allowed two singles after getting two outs. Papelbon came on and walked his first batter, then gave up a two-run Marco Scutaro single that narrowed the gap to just one run. Papelbon, whom manager Terry Francona called “sluggish,’’ re-loaded the bases by walking Aaron Hill, bringing up Adam Lind. Lind hit one all the way to the warning track, until Bay tracked it down to end the inning.
Papelbon put two more men on in the ninth before first baseman Kevin Youkilis ranged to get to a long foul ball in right field to finally end the game.
“I felt 10 pounds overweight today,’’ said Papelbon, who added that he sat in a spa for four hours Monday. “After an offday like that I had yesterday, I just, my body wasn’t clicking. It wasn’t in that usual state that it’s in after the offday.
“I just felt real heavy and it was hard for me to locate tonight because of that. That’s about it, really. I just had to grind it out. One of those days, you just say, ‘You know what, I don’t have my best stuff, I don’t have my best delivery, got to grind it out and do what I can to preserve the win.’
“Those situations you take whatever you can get. Doesn’t matter how you get the outs, doesn’t matter what happens.’’
It was that way for the Sox, too. Didn’t matter how they got their runs. Didn’t matter how many they allowed. It just mattered that they won the game, especially as the Rangers gave back their own four-run lead for a loss to Minnesota that put Texas and Boston back into a dead heat for the wild card.
With 25,472 looking on the Sox staved off the gloom that had enveloped them at the end of their stay in Arlington, Texas. While fighting the notion that it was time for panic to set in, they acknowledged that they had to start scoring, had to start winning, especially on the road. They did that last night, even if it looked a bit dicey at times.
“In hindsight, at the time I don’t think it’s something that you’re harping on, [that] you’re going to try any harder or not because of what had happened and then the guy you’re facing,’’ Bay said. “But when you’re sitting here talking about it now, yeah, I mean I think it’s of the utmost importance just to try to get in the win column, get in the right direction.’’
While Ricky Romero has owned the rest of the league - to the tune of a 10-3 record with a 3.26 ERA - he has been awful against the Sox. Over his three starts against Boston, Romero has a 10.50 ERA, allowing 14 earned runs in 12 innings. He has given up 19 hits, including four homers, and has walked 13.
Which was exactly what Boston needed.
But just as the offense was coming alive against Romero, who lasted 3 2/3 innings, the Jays’ bats came alive against Beckett. With a lead that grew to four runs by the time Beckett took the mound in the fifth, the pitcher barely made it through. He allowed a single to Lind for Toronto’s fourth and fifth runs, as Manny Delcarmen began to warm. Toronto got its sixth and seventh runs, tying the game, in the sixth before Delcarmen entered and Beckett called it a night.
But the Sox scored four runs in the second, with the first four batters getting on, and added two more in the fourth, starting with an Ortiz homer. Bay added a solo shot in the fifth, and then came those three crucial runs in the eighth.
“It was a little bit of everybody tonight,’’ Bay said. “It wasn’t just one or two guys carrying the load. That’s the way it’s going to have to be, especially short-staffed a little bit with [Dustin Pedroia] gone and [Jason Varitek] banged up. All around, probably not the way you want to draw it up, but a win’s a win.’’