Final, Blue Jays 9-2: Red Sox fall to last place in the AL East. A tough season keeps on getting tougher. The Red Sox have lost 10 of 11 and are 63-77 on the season. They are 22 games away from finishing at the bottom of the division for the first time since 1992.
The descent in the standings has been humbling and surreal. On April 21, after the Red Sox blew a 9-0 lead to the Yankees and lost 15-9, Bobby Valentine said, “I think we’ve hit bottom. … If this isn’t bottom, then we’ll find some new ends to the earth, I guess.”
Little did we know the Red Sox would drop onto a whole new planet.
Now, they need to rediscover their mojo.
Clay Buchholz gets the call against Carlos Villanueva in the series finale against Toronto in about 13 hours, at 1:35 p.m. Boston will do its best to avoid getting swept.
12:05 a.m.: There might be more Blue Jays fans at Fenway now than Red Sox fans. Both sides have started a “Yankees suck” chant at Fenway. Guess they haven’t looked at the AL East standings.
Mid 9th, Blue Jays 9-2: Anthony Gose provides a souvenir for the few fans still sitting in the right-field seats. The rookie crushed a three-run bomb off Andrew Bailey to give the Blue Jays a 9-2 lead. The home run is Gose’s first in the majors and gives him five RBIs for the night. He is going to be googled early and often Sunday, which has arrived.
11:49 p.m.: The jury is still out on whether Iglesias can hit major league pitching. If Iglesias hits below .100 for his career, will hitting around .100 become known as the Iglesias Line?
End 8th, Blue Jays 6-2: Jose Iglesias gets a hit. That is all.
11:42 p.m.: Thanks for playing, Brett Cecil. The left-hander exits after going two-thirds of an inning and wearing his sunglasses at night. Must be prescription shades.
Mid 8th, Blue Jays 6-2: Vicente Padilla wakes up the Blue Jays’ bats. Toronto grabs another run. The string of 1-2-3 innings is broken. Pour out some liquor.
End 7th, Blue Jays 5-2: Surprise, surprise. Lincoln sets Red Sox hitters down in order. Either all of these pitchers are future Hall of Famers, or hitters want to go home.
Mid 7th, Blue Jays 5-2: Three up, three down. More good relief by Red Sox pitchers. Melancon’s line: 2 IP, 0 H, 3 K. Those numbers will help lower his 7.11 ERA. Every little bit counts.
11:17 p.m.: Theeeeeeee Yankees lose — on a blown call. Orioles and pinstripes now tied atop AL East.
Mr. Selig, how many more calls do umpires need to miss before Major League Baseball implements instant replay for any play?
11:13 p.m.: NHL and NHLPA expected to meet Sunday. C’mon, fellas, the clock is clicking. Let’s find some common ground. The NHL season needs to start on time.
End 6th, Blue Jays 5-2: Another 1-2-3 inning. Take away the rain delays, and this game could have finished under two hours and been one of the fastest games of the season.
Lincoln’s 94 mph fastball buzzing over Mauro Gomez’s head is the most exciting moment of the frame. All this game needs is a brawl.
Mid 6th, Blue Jays 5-2: Mark Melancon takes over and shuts down the Blue Jays 1-2-3.
End 5th, Blue Jays 5-2: The game is official now after Brad Lincoln gets Ellsbury to ground out to second for the third out. If the rain starts again, umps probably will be sprinting toward the exits. But just in case, might want to get comfortable and make another sandwich.
Close the book on Laffey. He only went 4 2/3 innings, so he isn’t eligible for the win. But he deserves to be the pitcher of record. He only allowed two runs on four hits while striking out two and walking two. Red Sox could use a southpaw like him — 27 years old, $800,000 contract, good mound presence, strong command, versatile. He’s a free agent after this season.
10:51 p.m.: Play ball. Again. Game resumes after second rain delay of one hour, five minutes.
10:40 p.m.: Dave Mellor is a master greenskeeper. His team of grounds crew members is working overtime. Tarp is off, and heavy artillery is drying the field. Game is expected to resume at 10:50 p.m. ET.
10:25 p.m.: Tarp is back on the field, but word is, the game will be completed at some point. There’s a window of opportunity.
If you’re staying up to watch the end of the game, hat’s off. You’re a special breed. Thanks for staying with us.
10:18 p.m.: Looking forward to Sunday, Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season. Lots of good matchups. Best of the day could be 49ers at Packers. Interested to see how Andrew Luck does against Bears defense. Will Patriots’ offensive line keep Tom Brady from getting killed? Have Jets been playing opossum? Are Seahawks, Russell Wilson for real? Is Peyton Manning God?
Just saw the Rob Gronkowski Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. Not bad. If you haven’t read Chris Ballard’s Sports Illustrated piece on Gronkowski, his family and upbringing, check it out. Fascinating look into how Gronk became Gronk and why he is a football savant.
10:04 p.m.: The tarp is being removed from the Fenway infield. Now, the hard work begins for the grounds crew.
Good thing they’re going to keep playing. To quote Carl Spackler, “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s going to come down for quite a while.”
Watch the entire classic bishop golf scene from Caddyshack.
What are the odds this game turns into the best game of the Red Sox’ lives?
9:51 p.m.: Red Sox grounds crew is having a hard time getting the tarp on the field — water isn’t light. They finally manage to cover the infield. After the rain stops, the crew will have to do some work to get the field ready for play.
9:45 p.m.: The second rain delay of the game is presented by L.L. Bean.
9:41 p.m.: Scott Podsednik hits an RBI-single to right-center to put the Red Sox on the board. The celebration is short-lived as Lind makes a nice catch on a soft Jose Iglesias pop fly and doubles Podsednik off first. Pedro Ciriaco then hits a single up the middle to plate Mike Aviles. Red Sox now trail Blue Jays 5-2.
Rain is falling hard again. Umpires are stopping the game again. They have no choice. The rain is dumping.
Mid 5th, Blue Jays 5-0: Andrew Miller replaces Aceves after the rain delay and makes quick work of Rasmus, Encarnacion and Lind.
9:32 p.m.: Orioles have 5-2 lead on Yankees in seventh inning. If the Birds can hold on for the win, they will pull even with the pinstripes for first place in the AL East.
Dan Duquette has done a masterful job rebuilding the Orioles in his first season as Baltimore’s chief architect. They are the feel-good story of a season that has had many. If the O’s can get to the postseason, October will be a very big month in the Washington D.C. area.
End 4th, Blue Jays 5-0: Frustration continues for Red Sox. After Cody Ross gets hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out, Mauro Gomez grounds into a double play.
One inning until the game is official. So we got that going for us, which is nice.
8:26 p.m.: The game resumes after a 58-minute rain delay.
9:04 p.m.: Mother Nature, what happened? I thought we were friends.
On Friday night, I was at a welcome-back-to-school barbecue for my daughter, who started kindergarten this week. It started to rain. A little at first. The small drops then began to fall harder. Before long, the sky was pouring buckets. As we took cover under a building, a huge burst of lightning struck right in front of our eyes, a few feet from where we stood. The ensuing crash of thunder was deafening. The scene was reminiscent of the July lighting-thunder show at Rangers Ballpark that sent Twins and Rangers players running for safety.
Everyone at the barbecue headed indoors to be safe.
Before long, fire trucks arrived. The thunder boom had set off an alarm, so firemen needed to make sure lightning had not struck the same building we were using for cover.
Parents, students and teachers got to know each other a little better in the cafeteria and hallways of the school. We wondered if we’d be having a slumber party. We watched a monsoon. We bonded. After about 30 minutes, we were allowed go home, with a memory of a barbecue we would never forget.
And now it’s time to play ball again.
8:49 p.m.: One last thought on Dice-K. The Japanese right-hander never was the same after the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He pitched Japan to the title in March of that year, throwing at full speed, like it was October and he was pitching in the World Series, even though his arm wasn’t in condition for that pace.
The added workload may have led to his downfall. That’s just the kind of pitcher — and man — he is. In a high school tournament in Japan, his threw a legendary 250-pitch, 17-inning complete game to win the championship game. He wanted to be the best Japanese pitcher of all time, and that ambition may be his tragic flaw. The irony is that by striving to be the best for his country, he may have compromised his major league career in America, which then hurt the reputation of all Japanese pitchers in MLB. Until Yu Darvish helped rebuild the image this season.
But remember this: Matsuzaka went 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA in 61 starts and threw 372 1/3 innings over his first two big league seasons in 2007 and 2008. He helped the Red Sox win the 2007 World Series and get to Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS against the Rays. Since then, over four seasons from 2009 to 2012, he has gone 17-19 with a 5.17 ERA in 51 starts and thrown only 262 innings (those numbers don’t include Saturday night’s gem).
Dice-K was supposed to be the greatest pitcher on earth, a machine who could throw a gyroball and create new pitches every time he stepped on the mound. But like other great folklore — Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs — the myth failed to live up to the hype. Matsuzaka has not been worth the $102 million it cost the Red Sox to sign him.
He could have owned Boston. Instead, he got owned in Boston.
That’s life. You win some, you lose some, sometimes it rains.
Maybe Matsuzaka can resurrect his career in another market. Perhaps on the West Coast. Seattle, Los Angeles or San Diego. The chances of the Dice-Man getting another contract from the Red Sox are slim and none. And slim just left town.
8:34 p.m.: The Red Sox had 13 rain delays in 2011 that lasted 19 hours and one minute. This season, the Red Sox have had six rain delays, lasting seven hours and 16 minutes.
8:28 p.m.: This rain delay is presented by L.L. Bean.
Anyone know any good jokes?
8:26 p.m.: Forget about a no no-hitter. Ellsbury hits a clean line-drive single to center to break Laffey’s shot at the record books.
And now the skies have opened up. They are bringing out the tarp. The next question is, when will the rain end?
Mid 4th, Blue Jays 5-0: Another 1-2-3 for Aceves. Bobby V.’s favorite hurler is on a roll. Aceves has thrown 37 pitches in 2 2/3 innings with 26 for strikes.
End 3rd, Blue Jays 5-0: New England is hoping the Patriots bring more offense to Tennessee than the Red Sox have brought to Fenway. They are making Laffey look like Cy Young. If the Blue Jays’ lefty could face the Red Sox every game, he even might win a Cy Young.
Mid 3rd, Blue Jays 5-0: Aceves sets the Blue Jays down in order. The right-hander may be a little erratic off the mound, but he can pitch, if given the right role.
End 2nd, Blue Jays 5-0: The Red Sox fail to answer and still don’t have a hit against Laffey.
Mid 2nd, Blue Jays 5-0: Alfredo Aceves stops the bleeding as Edwin Encarnacion flies into a double play, thanks to bad baserunning by Colby Rasmus, who forgot how many outs there were. John Farrell isn’t going to be happy about that.
Matsuzaka likley won’t have many more outings at Fenway.
7:42 p.m. That’s all, folks. Bobby Valentine mercifully removes Dick-K. His final line: 1.1 IP, 5 R, 5 H, 2 K, 1 BB, 1 HR. Unofficial line: Millions of unhappy Red Sox fans.
7:38 p.m.: Make that 4-0 Blue Jays. Gose singles to center to drive in two more. Dice-K is throwing a nice round of batting practice.
7:33 p.m.: Mr. Inconsistent strikes again. After looking good in the first, Dice-K looks terrible in the second. Blue Jays put another run on the board on a double by Hechavarria for a 2-0 lead.
Scratch that earlier thought. Maybe a change of scenery for Matsuzaka would be best for all parties.
Matsuzaka turns 32 on Sept. 13 and is in the last year of the six-year, $52 million deal he signed before the 2007 season. He’s now the third-highest paid player on the Red Sox — behind John Lackey ($15.25M) and David Ortiz ($14.57M) — after Adrian Gonzalez ($21M), Carl Crawford ($19.5M) and Josh Beckett ($15.75M) were sent to the Dodgers in the Nick Punto ($1.5M) megadeal.
7:29 p.m.: Escobar puts Blue Jays on the board first with a home run over the Green Monster. That ball was a laser and would still be going if the seats weren’t there to stop its flight.
End 1st, 0-0: Three up, three down for the Red Sox. Laffey made it look easy.
7:24 p.m.: Dice-K is such a conundrum. Some days, he looks like an ace. Other days, he looks like a bum. On this night, he looks like a pitcher who could help the Red Sox in 2013.
Rest assured, Ben Cherington is considering every option. If Dice-K is willing to take a paycut from the $10.3 million salary he’s making this season — which is no guarantee for anyone represented by Scott Boras — the pitcher might be a serviceable starter.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Dice-K looks strong early as he retires the side with two strikeouts and a groundout. He walked one but threw three first-pitch strikes, has good velocity and is working quickly.
7:19 p.m.: Rain is beginning to fall at Fenway.
7:10 p.m.: Game on. Dice-K is undefeated against Blue Jays. We’ll see if he can stay undefeated.
Pull up a chair and stay a while.
7:01 p.m.: Red Sox have the second-most home runs by catchers in the American League with 25 (White Sox lead with 30). Jarrod Saltalamacchia has 23 of the Red Sox’ jacks.
Time will tell if Salty or Ryan Lavarnway is the long-term answer at catcher for Boston. Both have some shortcomings behind the plate and at the plate.
Russell Martin is one interesting potential free-agent backstop who could interest the Red Sox. Although he’s hitting just above the Mendoza line, he calls a great game and has come up with some big hits for the Yankees this season. He’s making $7.5 million this season and likely wouldn’t break the bank but could have other suitors.
The New York Times ran a cool series on Martin and his value to the Yankees.
Here is the complete list of 2013 MLB free agents.
6:46 p.m.: Mother Nature is showing kindness. Red Sox game is expected to begin on time.
6:45 p.m.: John Lackey threw batting practice on Saturday and said he felt great. Lackey is 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Tim Wakefield, on Red Sox First Pitch, said Lackey pitched hurt the past two seasons and didn’t get the credit he deserved. Wakefield also predicted that Lackey will win Comeback Player of the Year in 2013.
Lackey needs to deliver on the field in regular-season games before the veteran right-hander is given the benefit of any doubt.
6:29 p.m.: Stephen Strasburg’s season is over in Washington after 159 1/3 innings. Did the Nationals make the right decision? Don’t think so. Washington’s reasoning is understandable. They want to protect their investment and the value of Straburg for the foreseeable future, but getting to the playoffs and having a shot to win the World Series isn’t guaranteed. Teams need to play to win now, when they have the chance.
Couldn’t the Nationals have started Strasburg in the bullpen in the first half and then move him to the rotation like the Braves did with Kris Medlen, who also is coming off Tommy John surgery and has an innings limit this season? The Braves’ right-hander is dominating now and also is available to pitch in the postseason if Atlanta gets to October.
Couldn’t the Nationals have found a creative solution to ensure Strasburg pitches in the games that matter most? It’s not just a shame for Washington fans and players, but it’s a shame for all baseball fans. It’s also a hit for Major League Baseball, which wants to showcase its best players on the biggest stage under the brightest lights.
Oh, well. Wait until next year.
6:19 p.m.: Dustin Pedroia hits third in the lineup after collecting his 400th career RBI on Friday night. Pedroia is batting .327 in the three spot with six home runs and 25 RBIs this season.
Jacoby Ellsbury moves to the two hole. Scott Boras might disagree, but Ellsbury seems better suited to hit leadoff or No. 2. His 2011 numbers notwithstanding, the center fielder is more of table setter than a table cleaner. He has only one home run and one RBI in 37 at-bats in the three spot this season. Part of his low power numbers are due to missing most of the first half with injury, but even if he is healthy for an entire season, his speed is a bigger weapon than his power.
6:01 p.m.: Weather could be an issue. Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast, but no rain yet. Current temperature is 76 degrees with 84 percent humidity and 22 mph winds. Hope Mother Nature cooperates.
5:51 p.m.: Good news for Red Sox? They are 25-19 (.568) against left-handed starters this year, the fourth-best mark in the American League. Bad news? They haven’t scored a run against Laffey in a pair of games. He pitched seven shutout innings on July 20, a 6-1 Blue Jays win, for his second victory of the season. On June 20, a 5-1 Red Sox win, he delivered six shutout innings for a no-decision.
4 p.m.: Here are your lineups for this evening.
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Cody Ross, RF
Mauro Gomez, 1B
Ryan Lavarnway, C
Mike Aviles, DH
Scott Podsednik, LF
Jose Iglesias, SS
Daisuke Matsuzaka, P
Rajai Davis, LF
Colby Rasmus, CF
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Adam Lind, 1B
Yunel Escobar, SS
Kelly Johnson, 2B
J.P. Arencibia, C
Adeiny Hechavarria, 3B
Anthony Gose, RF
Aaron Laffey, P
3 p.m.: Crash Davis, Ty Webb and Sgt. Hulka make us feel good, proud to be Americans. They might be fictional characters, but they are the type of leaders the Red Sox need to restore dignity in the clubhouse and order on the field. When the Red Sox start looking for players to add to the roster this winter, they must scour every corner of the globe to find the Crash Davises, Ty Webbs and Sgt. Hulkas of the baseball world.
Think of how good the Red Sox can be, not how bad they have been, and watch how fast hope is restored in Red Sox Nation.
The healing process begins now, and we want to document the closing of the wound. So smile, take a picture and send photos to @NESN or @erictortiz with #smile as the hashtag. We will post the best pictures on NESN.com.
— NESN (@NESN) September 8, 2012
2:57 p.m.: Bobby Valentine called this year’s Red Sox campaign “miserable” earlier this week. Larry Lucchino agreed. To say the season has been a disappointment would be like saying Democrats and Republicans don’t see eye-to-eye on some issues.
But just because the 2012 Red Sox have fallen far short of meeting expectations doesn’t mean the apocalypse has arrived. The Red Sox have financial flexibility and talent on the farm. If Ben Cherington and Co. make effective offeason moves and provide the right answers to key questions — who will start at pitcher, catcher, shortstop, first base, left field and right field in 2013? — the Red Sox could contend as early as next season.
The reloading process won’t be easy, but look on the bright side: The Red Sox are not the Royals. While the Red Sox may have strayed from the philosophy and core principles that helped them win two world championships in four seasons, they have the means to rise again.
Everyone who roots for the Red Sox should embrace the opportunity. The organization has been given a great gift (by the Dodgers): the chance to hit the reset button. Being negative is easy. The impulse and reaction is predictable. Now is the time to choose a new approach. Instead of crowing about all of the Red Sox’ problems and reliving every detail of the drama and dysfunction — we all know the story by heart, anyways — how about we talk about solutions? The sooner we do, the sooner Boston can get back to enjoying the Show.
If you don’t believe me, listen to the sage advice of three legends.
Crash Davis, who reminds us that baseball is fun (warning: video contains some salty language).
Ty Webb, who explains the secret to unlocking the mystery of success.
And everyone’s favorite big toe, Sgt. Hulka, who knows a little something about discipline, duty, honor and courage — and how to keep things in perspective.
8 a.m. ET: We have reached Game 140 of the Red Sox’ 2012 season. Call it the Playing for Pride Special.
After losing 7-5 to the Blue Jays in the series opener on Friday night at Fenway Park, Boston (63-76) dropped into a virtual tie with Toronto (62-75) for last place in the AL East.
Can the Red Sox avoid taking sole possession of the cellar?
Daisuke Matsuzaka gets the ball in Game 2 against Aaron Laffey. Matsuzaka is 1-4 with a 6.15 ERA in seven starts this season. If you’re keeping score, that’s $1,476,190 per start for Matsuzaka. Four of those starts have been at Fenway, where he is 1-1 with a 3.52 ERA.
Law of averages says Dice-K is due for a quality outing. He surrendered six runs on seven hits (two home runs) in a forgettable 3 2/3 innings in Oakland in his last turn on Sept. 2.
Laffey rejoins the Blue Jays’ rotation since J.A. Happ is out for the season with a fractured foot. Laffey is 3-5 with 4.46 ERA, but the left-hander has pitched very well against the Red Sox this year. In two starts, both in Boston, he’s allowed no runs, struck out six and held batters to a .229 average over 13 innings.
First pitch Saturday night is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET. Tune in to NESN at 6 p.m. for pregame coverage, and follow along with the live blog right here.