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Francona: 'That was a night we needed'

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 7, 2011 12:41 AM

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The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

TORONTO — The Red Sox have the third-best record in baseball, a lineup featuring four MVP candidates and are on their way to their seventh playoff berth in the last nine seasons.

Jonathan Papelbon is in the midst of one of the best runs of his career. Daniel Bard is a devastating set-up man and while the rotation looks a little thin at times, how many teams would do whatever it took to get a guy like Jon Lester on their roster?

But because we watch them every day, we see the flaws. The Sox had dropped four of five. They were waiting word on Josh Beckett's sprained ankle. Terry Francona had somehow decided Marco Scutaro would hit sixth. Those who keep a panic button handy were ready to press it.

That's what made this game kind of interesting if only because it was a handy reminder that baseball gets played every day and bad news can change just like that.

The Sox won 14-0, pounding out 20 hits. Just after the game started came word that Beckett has a pretty significant sprained ankle but nothing that will cost him more than a start or two. Oh, and the Rays lost so the Sox now lead the wild card by eight games with only 21 to play.

“That was a night we needed,” Francona said.

The unlikely No. 6 hitter, Mr. Scutaro, was 4 for 5 with three doubles and four RBIs and was cracking jokes afterward about what a power hitter he had become. Scutaro is 34 of 95 (.358) with 12 RBIs and 12 doubles in 24 games against Toronto, his former team, since he joined the Sox.

"I think I like hitting here," he said. "That must be it."

The Sox finished with nine doubles, their most since they had nine against the Tigers on July 21, 2003.

Lester was magnificent. The big lefty enjoyed the run support but 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 Red 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.

Nobody likes the idea of dealing with Justin Verlander twice in a short series. Tell you what, teams feel the same way about Lester. He has 42 innings of postseason experience and a 2.57 ERA. Verlander has pitched 21.2 innings in the postseason (all in 2006) and has a 5.73 ERA.

All in all, a positive night. So while we see the flaws, let's remember that the Sox are 85-56, on a pace to score 875 runs and stand a 99.7 percent chance of making the playoffs according to the smart folks at Baseball Prospectus.

As Kevin Bacon said in the great final scene of that cinematic classic Animal House, "Remain calm, all is well."

OK, so the fleeing citizens of Faber ran over him. Let's not go there.

Thanks to everybody for reading today. Now that Labor Day is over, its nice to see you folks back at your jobs and reading baseball blogs instead of, you know, working. We appreciate it.

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