After shutout, Red Sox erupt against Blue Jays
TORONTO - The Red Sox arrived at Rogers Centre for last night’s game against the Blue Jays with the third-best record in baseball, multiple candidates for Most Valuable Player, and a firm grip on their seventh playoff berth in the last nine seasons.
But all was far from well. The Sox had dropped four of their previous five games and were waiting word on the status of ace righthander Josh Beckett, who left Monday’s game with a sprained ankle.
Those in the fan base who keep a panic button handy were just itching to press it.
Then came a mountain of hits, news that Beckett should be back sooner than later, and a 14-0 victory.
“That was a night we needed,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
A night after they lost, 1-0, in 11 innings, the Sox had 20 hits and scored 13 runs in the first five innings.
Marco Scutaro, hitting sixth for the second time this season, was 4 for 5 with three doubles and four RBIs. He matched career highs for hits and RBIs.
David Ortiz also tied his career high with four hits. He drove in two runs and had two doubles. Adrian Gonzalez had three hits and two RBIs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Josh Reddick homered.
Outside of Dustin Pedroia, of all players, every Sox starter had at least one hit. Nine of the hits were doubles, the most since the Sox had nine against the Tigers July 21, 2003 at Fenway Park.
It was the largest shutout victory for the Sox since a 15-0 game against Montreal in 1998 and the largest road shutout since a 14-0 victory against the Tigers in 1973.
“People think they can figure baseball out,’’ Ortiz said. “So tell me how can we get no runs one day and score 14 runs the next day? That’s baseball. It doesn’t make sense. But I knew we’d get it going.’’
Jon Lester (15-6) was the beneficiary of the run support, taking the mound with a 4-0 lead in the first inning. But the big lefty didn’t need much help, scattering three hits over seven innings with one walk and 11 strikeouts.
Lester is 4-0 with a 1.16 earned run average in his last five starts. He is the first Sox lefthander since Lefty Grove in 1936 to allow one earned run or less in five consecutive starts.
Lester dominated the Blue Jays, allowing only one runner as far as second base. As the season winds down and the postseason approaches, Lester is at his best.
“As of now, I feel good. I’m trying to get on a roll and see where it takes us,’’ he said.
Lester said the big lead didn’t change his focus.
“I’ve got one job and that’s to go out there and try and go as deep in the game as I can,’’ he said. I’m never going to complain about a wait as far as runs or hits or anything like that. The more the merrier. It definitely helps. But you’re trying to be perfect all the time.’’
Lester has won 15 or more games in each of the last four years. He is 3-0 in five starts against the Blue Jays this season with an ERA of 2.08.
“That’s the guy we need,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “He was throwing strikes and controlling the ball to both sides of the plate.’’
Toronto starter Luis Perez, who faced the Sox in relief six times this season, was done after 2 2/3 innings. Perez (3-3) gave up eight runs on 10 hits.
It started right away as Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double down the line in left and scored on a pop-up double by Gonzalez. It was a nice bit of base running by Ellsbury, who knew the ball would bounce high off the artificial turf when it landed in left field and give him a chance to score.
It was the first run batted in for Gonzalez since Aug. 26. He had gone nine games without one. Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He has had four streaks of at least 10 games this season.
After Kevin Youkilis walked, Ortiz had an RBI single, as did Scutaro. Carl Crawford followed with an RBI double and it was 4-0.
Gonzalez had an RBI single and Youkilis a run-scoring double in the second inning. Scutaro led off the third with a double. Saltalamacchia then hammered a home run to left-center. He has 15 home runs and 50 RBIs.
“We scored early and we kept at them. We spread it out,’’ Francona said.
Toronto gave the crowd something to cheer about in the fifth when Dustin McGowan came in to pitch. Once a successful starter, McGowan had not appeared in a major league game since July 8, 2008 because of a severe shoulder injury that required multiple surgeries to correct.
The Sox gave him a harsh reception. Gonzalez led off with an opposite-field single to left, through the vacated spot in Toronto’s shift.
Ortiz then belted an RBI double to center. Scutaro’s third double made it 13-0.
McGowan retired the next seven batters, three by strikeout. He went four innings.