Red Sox Live Blog: Nick Punto the Unlikely Hero as Red Sox Take Down Blue Jays 7-4

by NESN Staff

June 2, 2012

Red Sox Live Blog: Nick Punto the Unlikely Hero as Red Sox Take Down Blue Jays 7-4Final, Red Sox 7-4: Alfredo Aceves did his thing and closed this one out. That's a fitting finish for the Red Sox, who were firing on all cylinders for much of today.

There were a few fluke plays and errors, but overall, Boston is looking as sharp as it has throughout the past couple of weeks, and that's a good sign. There's good reason to believe .500 is far, far behind.

Felix Doubront will get the win after scattering seven hits and seven strikeouts and allowing just two earned runs. On the offensive side, Nick Punto is the man of the hour, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a beautiful home run.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 7-4: Nick Punto's got some power! The infielder, who has been spelling Dustin Pedroia at second base despite batting just .161 up to this at-bat, launched a huge home run to center to help the Sox grab a run back. It's his first homer of the year.

His teammates tried to play a joke on him, giving him the silent treatment when he re-entered the dugout, but Bobby Valentine was the first to lose it. He jumped up and gave Punto a solid attaboy, and the rest of the guys soon joined in.

Punto had three hits today after just two in all of May.

Mike Aviles and Adrian Gonzalez put up bagels at the plate again. They're both 0-for-5 today.

End 8th, Red Sox 6-4: Eh, that's not good.

Ryan Sweeney was shifted to right field for defensive purposes, but he betrayed his abilities in that inning. (And he doesn't look pleased with himself about it.)

Brett Lawrie poked one into Sweeney's corner with a man on first, and Sweeney just completely threw the ball away on his relay back into the infield. (That's not easy to do when you're playing right field, as you're throwing toward all the players, not the fence or anything.)

Edwin Encarnacion came around to score, and Lawrie advanced to second.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia took care of the rest of the inning, though. He gunned down Lawrie trying to steal third, notching the final out and getting Vicente Padilla, Sweeney and the rest of the Sox out of the inning.

3:44 p.m.: Bobby Valentine is stretching his legs in the bottom of the eighth. Matt Albers started and gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion, then Andrew Miller came in for just one out. It's now Vicente Padilla's turn.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-3: The Blue Jays were with kicking distance of the lead and may have been pining to steal one, as the Sox hadn't done much since the early innings. But Boston would have none of it.

David Ortiz finally got on the board, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia showed again why he's such a threat by drawing his second walk of the game.

The Red Sox had Darren Oliver in to start the inning, then Francisco Cordero came on in relief with one out on the board. He walked Kevin Youkilis then gave up a grounder to Ryan Sweeney that send Ortiz home.

It's only one more run, but it shows the Sox still have life. They're likely bringing in Andrew Miller to help finish off the rest of this game.

End 7th, Red Sox 5-3: As Matt Albers came in, Adrian Gonzalez also moved back to first, and he immediately made good on the switch. He gobbled up a sharp grounder that was quite a ways to second base and flipped it to Albers for an out.

Marlon Byrd came in at center field, and Ryan Sweeney shifts to right. Will Middlebrooks is the odd man out as Kevin Youkilis takes his spot.

3:14 p.m. Felix Doubront got a chance to do more work finishing what he started.

He went over the 100-pitch mark and got his seventh strikeout of the game before manager Bobby Valentine called in Matt Albers in relief.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 5-3: Jason Frasor worked his way out of the two-on jam, punching out Mike Aviles on strikes.

3:05 p.m.: Kyle Drabek's day is finished after an unsteady inning.

He got an error of his own, overthrowing first in a pickoff attempt. That sent Nick Punto, who had singled, to second.

Drabek had already walked Ryan Sweeney, whose spot on the bases was erased in a double play, and then Drabek walked Daniel Nava.

With men on first and second, it was time for Drabek to get the hook.

He leaves having thrown 108 pitches, allowing five earned runs on six hits and striking out four. He also walked four.

Jason Frasor now pitches for the Blue Jays. He has a 4.74 ERA in 22 appearances this season.

End 6th, Red Sox 5-3: Maybe Felix Doubront wants to stick around. He just threw an uber-efficient inning, taking only eight pitches to record three outs, including a strikeout to a flailing Jeff Mathis.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-3: Kyle Drabek has now retired eight in a row, and it's a good thing the Red Sox got their runs early. David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kevin Youkilis all went down in that inning.

It's been a quiet day for the usually hot Ortiz, who is now 0-for-3. He joins Saltalamacchia, Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Aviles as the only hitless Red Sox.

End 5th, Red Sox 5-3: Well, hello, Jose Bautista. In an otherwise quiet inning for the Jays, Toronto took another bite at Boston's lead on a Bautista home run.

Felix Doubront has now thrown 89 pitches through five innings. Next inning will likely be his last, and he may not even stay in the whole frame.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 5-2: That was a quick inning. It took six pitches for Daniel Nava, Mike Aviles and Adrian Gonzalez to go down.

End 4th, Red Sox 5-2: The Blue Jays just put together a tidy two-out rally. Kelly Johnson singled in another run for Toronto.

Felix Doubront had regained some of his early-inning form, striking out Rajai Davis. He didn't, however, have the same finesse with his glove. He stabbed at a bouncer from David Cooper but couldn't hold on, and he was charged with an error.

That was followed by a heads-up bunt from Jeff Mathis, who had homered the last time up. He snuck one down the third base line to load the bases. Johnson then singled to send a run home.

Mike Aviles' arm and hand look to be OK. The shortstop scooped up a hot grounder and just beat out the runner with his throw to first in that frame.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 5-1: Kevin Youkilis got to show off his legs in that inning. His long fly to right field just missed being a home run, and a wayward throw from the usually sharp Jose Bautista opened the door for Youkilis to steam into third.

Putting the leadoff guy on third is always a good idea, and Youkilis showed why by motoring home on a double play groundout a couple of batters later.

End 3rd, Red Sox 4-1: Felix Doubront had been mowing down the blue birds (a no-hitter through two!), but they got to him in the bottom of the third.

First came a leadoff home run, and things appeared to get worse after that.

Mike Aviles got jammed on the hand after a sharp grounder to short took a nasty hop off the turf and clipped him. He shook off the concerned Bobby Valentine and trainers, but what was charged as an error still left the bases loaded.

An injury to Aviles would be of more than usual concern, of course, because the Red Sox are out of infield options. Dustin Pedroia is still working his way back from taking a few days off with a thumb injury. Nick Punto has been filling in for him at second, and the Sox have no other utility fielders to draw from on the major league roster.

Aviles stayed in the game, but he'll get a closer look once he's in the dugout. Doubront will also need to calm himself down after allowing four baserunners that inning.

Jeff Mathis began the inning, squeaking a home run that went off the fence, then Kelly Johnson got a good piece of a ball for a single.

Yunel Escobar connected on a pitch that he dropped into center. His ball was hard-hit, too.

Doubront escaped worse danger as Jose Bautista flied out to center. Edwin Encarnacion then reached on the ball to Aviles before Colby Rasmus popped up to end the threat.

Doubront is once again flirting with a high pitch count early in the game. He's thrown 54 pitches so far.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 4-0: That inning went a little easier for Kyle Drabek, who looked sharp again in taking down Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz on groundouts before Jarrod Saltalamacchia whiffed.

Ortiz almost beat out that grounder to first, though. His ball was gobbled up by the shift, but the now lithe designated hitter showed the speed he's been cultivating ever since losing weight in the offseason.

End 2nd, Red Sox 4-0: Felix Doubront had a little bit of everything that inning. He walked the leadoff batter but then recorded a strikeout and a long flyout to Adrian Gonzalez' corner of the outfield, where the once-first baseman had no trouble with the catch.

Doubront polished off the inning with a popup out, also to Gonzalez.

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 4-0: Kyle Drabek looked very good starting off, but the Sox have worn him down to get the early lead. They also got two bonus runs on a bonehead play.

It started with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The batters on either side of Saltalamacchia went down swinging, but he worked a walk and then advanced to third on a Ryan Sweeney single to center that was bobbled in the outfield.

Will Middlebrooks drove in Saltalamacchia on a blast to right field. Nick Punto then joined in the party with a double, driving Sweeney home and sending Middlebrooks to third.

The Jays were just about out of the inning, but then Colby Rasmus made an inexcusable flub in center field. He lost track of Daniel Nava's fly ball and let it bounce under his glove. With two outs on the board, Middlebrooks and Punto were running, and they both scored easily.

That's unfortunate for Drabek. The runs came easy once they started, but until Saltalamacchia's at-bat, Drabek was looking very good. He cooled down a hot David Ortiz, sending him down swinging, and also struck out Kevin Youkilis and Mike Aviles for the inning's three outs.

End 1st, 0-0: That's some nifty glovework by Felix Doubront, who's going to earn his keep in more than one way this afternoon, it seems. He nabs a comebacker from Yunel Escobar then flips it for first for the second out of the inning.

He wasn't the only one with sharp fielding, though. Will Middlebrooks did a good job taking care of a tough grounder down the third base line from Jose Bautista.

Doubront takes the Jays down 1-2-3, but he used a load of pitches in that inning. He had three balls on all three batters.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The Red Sox go down quietly in the first as Kyle Drabek retires Daniel Nava, Mike Aviles and Adrian Gonzalez in order. That was an efficient inning for the righty, who threw just 14 pitches.

Felix Doubront is headed out to make his mark on this game.

2:30 p.m.: That's a good sight for Red Sox fans — Dustin Pedroia is taking some practice swings in batting practice. The second baseman eschewed a chance at the disabled list, saying he'd get his sore thumb back in order soon enough, and it looks like he may be close to returning if he's swinging.

12:00 p.m.: We're coming up on game time. It's a rainy day around Boston, but Rogers Centre in Toronto has a nice dome, so they don't need to worry about drops up there.

The Sox have been hot lately, but after the Celtics' big win at the Garden last night, you have to wonder if anyone will be ready for a Red Sox matinee.

10:30 a.m.: We've got the lineups for this afternoon. It looks like more of the usual, if "usual" now includes Adrian Gonzalez in right field. Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis are both back in the lineup, and Ryan Sweeney has shifted to center field.

Red Sox

Daniel Nava LF
Mike Aviles SS
Adrian Gonzalez RF
David Ortiz DH
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Ryan Sweeney CF
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Nick Punto 2B

Felix Doubront P

Blue Jays

Kelly Johnson 2B
Yunel Escobar SS
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Colby Rasmus CF
Brett Lawrie 3B
Rajai Davis LF
David Cooper DH
Jeff Mathis C
Kyle Drabek P

8a.m. ET: Felix Doubront has been a steady revelation for the Red Sox so far this season, pinning up one decent start after another even as more experienced members of the rotation have faltered. He'll look to continue his promising start to the season Saturday as the Red Sox (27-25) take on the Blue Jays (27-25) in Toronto in the second of a three-game series.

Doubront (5-2, 3.86 ERA) hasn't always been able to go deep into games, but he's shown he can be adept at striking guys out. He has 59 Ks this season in 56 innings pitched. Doubront has faced Toronto six times in his career, most recently on April 9, when he went five innings and allowed four hits and two runs.

On the mound for the Blue Jays is righty Kyle Drabek (4-5, 4.55 ERA). His last time against Boston, on April 10, he went 5 1/3 innings and allowed just one run.

The Red Sox have been on the upswing recently, winning 15 of 21, while Toronto has receded from its early-season promise, losing six of its last nine.

Follow's live blog for all of the action along the way. Tune in to NESN at noon for pregame coverage, with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m.

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