Junichi Tazawa’s Toronto Woes Among Trends Continued In Red Sox’s Loss

Junichi TazawaThe list of certainties in life keeps evolving.

Marcus Stroman shutting down the Boston Red Sox, Junichi Tazawa flopping against the Toronto Blue Jays and Joe Kelly running into hard luck represent three key additions to a list previously comprised of only death and taxes.

The Blue Jays avoided a three-game sweep Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the Red Sox at Rogers Centre. The script played out about how’d expect given some of the trends entering the contest.

First, there was Stroman.

The 23-year-old entered 2014 ranked the No. 55 prospect in Major League Baseball by MLB.com, so to see him succeed in his first big league season isn’t a shocker. Stroman has straight-up dominated the Red Sox in three starts this season, though, so it’s clear Boston has a little bit of an issue within its division.

Stroman allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits over 7 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked one while throwing 112 pitches (73 strikes). Stroman’s only shaky inning was the sixth, when the Red Sox strung together three consecutive singles following an error by third baseman Juan Francisco and benefitted from a wild pitch en route to scoring their only two runs of the contest.

Stroman now is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in 21 2/3 innings over three starts against the Red Sox. He has struck out 21, walked only five and produced a 0.79 WHIP. By comparison, Stroman is 5-5 with a 4.73 ERA and 1.33 WHIP against everyone else this season.

Second, there was Tazawa.

Kelly exited after giving up a leadoff double to Edwin Encarnacion in the seventh inning. The Red Sox’s bullpen promptly collapsed, with Tazawa surrendering a pinch-hit, three-run homer to Danny Valencia. The Jays added their fifth run when Kevin Pillar doubled off Tazawa and scored on a ground ball two batters later.

Over the last two seasons, the Blue Jays are hitting .403 (25-for-62) with eight homers, four doubles and two triples against Tazawa. Toronto has touched up Tazawa for 13 earned runs over 13 1/3 innings in that span.

“I think they picked up something that we felt like we corrected probably two and a half months ago,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Tonight was a matter of a ball that ran back to the inner third of the plate against Valencia rather than staying down and away from him.”

And finally, there was Kelly.

As mentioned, Kelly was long gone by the time the Blue Jays exploded for four runs in the seventh, so he didn’t factor into the decision. But when he takes the mound for his sixth start with Boston, he’ll still be looking for his first win in a Red Sox uniform, largely because of some tough luck.

Kelly has a 3.86 ERA in five starts since being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals. But if you take out his seven-run yield in Houston on Aug. 17, his ERA over four starts sits at 1.88. Kelly was removed from his Aug. 22 start against the Seattle Mariners after five shutout innings because of a tweak in his shoulder — something that played into Farrell’s decision to remove the right-hander Wednesday after just 86 pitches.

“He pitched exceptional tonight. He was very good. He had powerful stuff. He and (catcher) David Ross worked well together,” Farrell said. “But we felt like in light of five days ago, we were going to hold him shorter than normal. And knowing we were going to have to match up through the bottom part of the order, it didn’t work out the way it looked we could match up.”

The Red Sox had an opportunity to complete their first sweep of at least three games on the road since May 2013. Looking at everything in hindsight, the stars really weren’t aligned for such a feat.

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