Blue Jays administer a brutal beatdown
This one was a case study in pain management. Or, to be more precise, an experiment gone awry on the pain threshold of the Red Sox, a team beset by mounting casualties to its marquee players, the latest being Dustin Pedroia’s return to the disabled list after his aborted comeback from a fractured left foot suffered June 25.
And if that wasn’t painful enough, there was last night’s hideous 16-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays before a restless Fenway Park crowd of 37,726. It was the Sox’ worst setback this season and biggest since a 14-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves May 19, 2007.
Sox lefthander Jon Lester, looking for his 14th win, was overmatched against Toronto’s lineup of hitters, who erupted for a season-high 20 hits and four home runs.
“He just didn’t command, really, anything,’’ Sox manager Terry Francona said of Lester (13-8, 3.26 ERA). “I mean it was a tough go right from the beginning.’’
The Blue Jays roughed up Lester for nine runs on eight hits over two-plus innings. It was Lester’s shortest — and worst — appearance and made all the more forgettable by three-run homers in the first and third innings to Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay. Overbay went 4 for 5 and had a career-high seven RBIs.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot to talk about,’’ Francona said. “Six RBIs in your first two at-bats, that’s pretty productive hitting. Jon just didn’t locate, and he paid the price.’’
“I threw two balls right down the middle and he did what he’s supposed to do with those,’’ Lester said.
When Overbay launched Lester’s 94-mile-per-hour fastball into the Green Monster seats for his 15th homer of the season, it gave Toronto a commanding 9-0 lead. Lester was sent packing after making just 51 pitches, 26 for strikes.
“Basically, I didn’t have anything from pitch one,’’ Lester said. “I dug myself in a hole right off the bat and when you have a team like that that swing the bats so well you can’t give them any leeway.’’
Scott Atchison hardly fared better. Although he did record a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, Atchison departed in the fifth after Travis Snider’s line-drive single ricocheted off his left calf, prompting Francona to summon Michael Bowden from the bullpen.
“We were going to let him throw a couple of pitches, and we could’ve waited, but Bowden was ready in the bullpen,’’ Francona said. “We were going to try and chew up some of that next inning. Once Bowden was ready, we were going to go to him.’’
Atchison said his leg was fine.
“There’s no problems,’’ he said. “It’ll be a little sore, that’s all.’’
Bowden did little to extinguish the four-alarm conflagration that engulfed Fenway when he gave up a three-run homer to John McDonald in the sixth inning, for a 14-0 Blue Jays lead.
Jose Bautista, the American League’s home run leader didn’t even factor in Toronto’s 16-hit, three-homer barrage through the first six innings until the game was well out of reach.
Bautista came up in seventh against Manny Delcarmen and unloaded on a 3-and-1 pitch to deep center field for his league-leading 38th homer.
To make matters worse, the Sox struggled to mount any offensive response to Toronto lefthander Brett Cecil (10-6), who shut out the Sox through six innings.
It was Cecil’s first career win against the Sox after entering the game with an 0-3 record and 7.80 ERA against them (15 innings, 22 hits, 13 earned runs, 7 home runs).
The Sox threatened in the third, with men on first and second, and the fifth, with the bases loaded. Both times Victor Martinez (1 for 3) failed to deliver when he hit into rally-killing double plays.
By the end of the sixth, the Sox were staring at their worst home field loss since absorbing a 22-1 bludgeoning by the New York Yankees June 19, 2000.
Cecil faltered in the seventh when the Sox broke up his bid for his first shutout of the season. He was gone after 6 2/3 innings, in which he allowed two runs on nine hits, while walking three and striking out four. He threw 111 pitches and landed 69 for strikes.
After Bill Hall flew out to left to start the inning, Darnell McDonald reached on a single to right and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Yamaico Navarro, who was called up from Pawtucket, and singled to left in his first major league at-bat in the fifth, flied to center.
With two out, Jed Lowrie drew a walk, setting the stage for reserve catcher Dusty Brown.
Brown sent Cecil packing with a double to left that scored McDonald and Lowrie, pulling the Sox within 15-2.
But there was little hope of a comeback, especially after Overbay recorded his seventh RBI on a single off Tim Wakefield in the eighth.
By then, the Fenway Faithful had seen enough. They began heading for the exits, but not before crooning “Sweet Caroline’’ in what seemed to be one last futile gesture.
With a little more than a month left in the season, and the Sox still 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees (who lost to Seattle, 6-0), Lester was aware he could not afford many more outings such as last night’s debacle.
“We’re getting down to [crunch] time,’’ Lester said. “That doesn’t help us. It’s going to be a long five days, but I just have to go out and help us win. Hopefully this is just a fluke, something that happens once in a blue moon and I can just move on and pitch well.’’