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Sox come up empty

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / July 21, 2012
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This time, there was no walkoff magic to be weaved in the bottom of the ninth.

Unlike Thursday night’s rousing triumph over the White Sox, in which Cody Ross belted a three-run homer to win it, there were no such heroics in Friday night’s 6-1 setback to the Blue Jays before an announced Fenway Park crowd of 38,093.

Ross’s third career walkoff homer effectively hid the fact the Sox couldn’t score for eight innings against 23-year-old White Sox lefthander Jose Quintana.

Against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox encountered similar problems against another lefty, Aaron Laffey, who used an effective cutter to twirl seven shutout innings in which he allowed eight hits and recorded four strikeouts.

“He threw a lot strikes and we hit a lot of balls at their players,’’ said Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

The difference was that Sox starter Josh Beckett (5-8) was unable to hold the line in the early going against a Blue Jays lineup that was missing two huge offensive weapons: right fielder Jose Bautista (left wrist, 15-day disabled list) and third baseman Brett Lawrie (right calf bruise, day-to-day).

The Sox didn’t score until there was one out in the bottom of the ninth. Will Middlebrooks singled to right, went to second on defensive indifference, and took third on a wild pitch. He scored on Mike Aviles’s fielder’s choice.

“It was one of those nights where we couldn’t find the hole and a couple of outfielders made good plays and infielders made good plays when we hit the ball hard,’’ Valentine said. “That’s what happens sometimes, it just turns around on you like that.”

Before the game, Valentine predicted Beckett would “get by the first inning without a problem.’’

Beckett, however, gave up a pair of runs in each of the first two innings and another run in the fifth as the Blue Jays tagged him for seven hits.

“Obviously, the results are not where you want them to be,” Beckett said. “But you have to keep going out there.”

Combined, Beckett and Jon Lester are 10-15 while the rest of the current starting rotation is 20-9.

Much like his previous start in Tampa, in which Beckett overcame a three-run first inning to secure a 7-3 victory July 15, snapping a winless streak of six games, he again scuffled from the beginning.

After Beckett struck out leadoff hitter Anthony Gose, Colby Rasmus hit a towering triple to right over Ross’s head. The next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, hit a sharp grounder to third. Middlebrooks’s throw home beat Rasmus, but Rasmus deftly sneaked his left hand between the legs of Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach, who was blocking the plate. Sam Holbrook ruled Rasmus safe.

“I was sitting on top of the plate and I don’t know how he got his hand in there, but the umpire said he got his hand in there,” Shoppach said.

Encarnacion went to third on Adam Lind’s single to right, then scored on J.P. Arencibia’s single to left.

“We were playing for a double-play ball there and they hit two ground balls in the hole,” Shoppach said. “That’s a little bit of bad luck, and then he made some bad pitches they capitalized on in the second. He kept us in the ball game after those first couple of innings. We just couldn’t get anything going for him offensively.”

After giving up a leadoff double to Yunel Escobar in the second, Beckett got two quick outs before missing on a 3-and-2 curveball that allowed Gose to reach. Rasmus then ripped a two-run double to center to make it 4-0.

“After letting the 3-and-2 curveball walk [Gose], I think he lost a little concentration and threw a fastball out over the plate to Rasmus the next pitch,” Valentine said. “And before we knew it, it was two runs. But he’s out of that inning if he drops a curveball in there and gets [Gose] out.’’

The Sox, meanwhile, struggled to mount any offense against Laffey, who retired the side in order in the second and stranded a pair of runners in the third when he got Dustin Pedroia to fly to right. The Sox went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Beckett settled down and retired eight straight batters, striking out four, before he gave up another run with one out in the fifth.

Encarnacion reached on an infield single and took second on a throwing error by Middlebrooks. Lind followed with an RBI single to center to make it 5-0.

Beckett was done after the sixth, having thrown 96 pitches (62 strikes) and allowed five runs (four earned).

Laffey got out of a jam in the seventh by inducing Jacoby Ellsbury to pop to third with two runners on.

Andrew Miller threw a scoreless seventh before turning it over to Mark Melancon, who threw a scoreless eighth. He extended his scoreless streak to 12 innings before Yan Gomes hit an RBI double to right in the ninth.

Ross manufactured one late thrill, though, when he charged to snare Rasmus’s shallow line drive to right and fired to second to double off Gomes and end the inning.

On this night, it was all the ninth-inning magic Ross could muster.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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