After the Red Sox exploded for 14 runs in a series-opening rout at Toronto on Friday night, snapping a four-game losing streak, manager Terry Francona summed up his emotions in one simple statement.
“We really needed that,” Francona said, citing the ease with which he gained his 900th career victory, getting 13 runs through the first four innings and a simple six-inning effort from starter Jon Lester.
That must mean that Saturday’s 9-5 loss was something the club most certainly did not need.
On a hot day in Toronto, Francona and center fielder Mike Cameron were ejected, three Red Sox players were hit by pitches, 12 Boston runners were left on base (seven in scoring position), a 5-3 lead was squandered and John Lackey gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 rough innings of a three-hour, 29-minute marathon.
It was a rocky afternoon that renders the Red Sox’ chances of salvaging something from this final week before the All-Star break on the shoulders of Daisuke Matsuzaka, an iffy proposition.
With five losses in six games, Boston is eyeing the break as a much-needed respite. The club wasn’t able to reach the three-day stretch without showing some frustration, however. The target was home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.
Lackey walked a season-high six — the most he has issued in nearly four years — and 12 Red Sox hitters struck out, seven of them looking.
“I was struggling with my command but I had a little help, too,” Lackey said, taking the first of two subtle digs at Kellogg.
Francona was a bit more to the point.
The Sox skipper angrily berated Kellogg and other members of the umpiring crew with some colorful language, but only after mimicking Kellogg’s ejection motion by tossing the ump himself, giving us a clip for the ages.
Cameron had been ejected moments earlier for arguing a called third strike from the dugout. Francona was quick to defend his player, but may have also wanted to blow off some steam.
“I just wanted to go find out why [Cameron was ejected] and I didn’t like the answer,” he said. “Sometimes that happens. It’s hot. You’re losing. Sometimes that happens.”
Lackey saw the ejections as a necessary act for a club that needed to make a point.
“People don’t get thrown out for no reason,” he said.
The thing is, the Sox were not woefully outplayed. Toronto starter Brandon Morrow was no better than Lackey, leaving a 5-5 game after four innings. Boston had as many hits (11) as the Jays and Toronto was the only team to commit an error. But a microcosm of Boston’s bad day took place during a sequence in the bottom of the fifth.
A double, a walk and a wild pitch by Lackey gave the Jays runners on second and third with one out. Catcher Jose Molina then rocketed a shot to third that Adrian Beltre timed perfectly to snag for out No. 2.
Lackey, now one pitch from surviving the mess, threw a 3-1 curve to Fred Lewis on which the Toronto left-fielder tried to hold up. But Lewis’s check-swing chopper, again at Beltre, somehow got down the line to score two.
A hard smash to third results in a big out. A weak dribbler to the same part of the field results in the go-ahead runs and sends Lackey to the showers. Such was the theme on a frustrating Saturday in Toronto.
“That ends up being a back-breaker,” Francona said.
It was a tough break, but there were ejections, hit batters and two more Toronto home runs to come.
Essentially it was a whole mess of stuff that the Sox had no use for, all this less than a day after they got exactly what they needed.
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