Final, Blue Jays 6-1: You know it's a rough night when a two-out, run-scoring fielder's choice results in Zombie Nation playing and the crowd going wild. But that's exactly what we had here at Fenway, as the Blue Jays cruise to a 6-1 victory in the series opener.
With Casey Janssen on to pitch for the Jays in the ninth, Will Middlebrooks delivered a one-out single. He'd end up scoring in the inning on a forceout off the bat of Mike Aviles, but that's all of Boston offense could muster on Friday.
Aaron Laffey was excellent for Toronto in the win, tossing seven scoreless innings. Josh Beckett, meanwhile, struggled early in the game again, putting the Red Sox in a 4-0 hole they couldn't dig themselves out of.
Stick around with NESN.com for more postgame reaction, but it's definitely a different feel around Fenway this evening than last night.
Mid 9th, Blue Jays 6-0: A unique double play ended the inning, but not before the Blue Jays tacked on one more.
Travis Snider and Yan Gomes delivered back-to-back doubles with one out, leading to Toronto's sixth run of the game. Anthony Gose then worked a walk, which spelled the end of Mark Melancon's night.
Junichi Tazawa took the hill with two on and one out, and Colby Rasmus hit the second pitch he saw, a changeup, right on the screws. Cody Ross made a lunging play coming in, though, scooping it up just before it touched the grass. Ross then fired a strike to second base on the run to double up Gomes.
Ross, Middlebrooks and Shoppach are scheduled for Boston in the ninth. Casey Janssen will take the hill for Toronto.
End 8th, Blue Jays 5-0: The Red Sox are going to need some ninth-inning magic if they're going to make it three in a row. The ageless wonder, Darren Oliver, shut down Boston in the eighth.
Crawford grounded out to second, Pedroia popped out to short, and Gonzalez struck out swinging. That's sending some fans to the exits, although a good amount are sticking around to see if tonight will end with any Gatorade baths.
A five-run deficit (at the least) looks very much insurmountable at this point. Melancon heads back out for his second inning of work, and the Red Sox will have Cody Ross, Will Middlebrooks and Kelly Shoppach due up in the ninth.
Mid 8th, Blue Jays 5-0: It's unfortunate the Red Sox haven't been able to capitalize on their chances, because after those rough first two innings, the pitching has settled down nicely.
Mark Melancon allowed a one-out base runner in the eighth by walking J.P. Arencibia, but he forced Kelly Johnson to ground into a double play to wipe out any potential threat. With that, the deficit remains at five.
Aaron Laffey, who shut out the Red Sox for seven innings, now departs after 88 pitches. He was very effective in this one, getting out of any potential Sox rallies unscathed.
Darren Oliver, who played for the Red Sox sometime around the mid 1800's, will now come on for Toronto with Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez due up.
End 7th, Blue Jays 5-0: The Red Sox offfense threatened to finally get on the board, but again Aaron Laffey ensured Boston's goose egg remained.
Will Middlebrooks and Kelly Shoppach got the inning going with back-to-back singles, which woke up the Fenway Faithful who have seen their club generate little offense in this tilt. Unfortunately for them, they weren't given much to cheer about after that.
Mike Aviles was called out on strikes, and Pedro Ciriaco grounded into a forceout, setting up runners at the corners and two outs. Jacoby Ellsbury then swung at the first pitch he saw, popping out to Yan Gomes in foul territory to end the rally.
Mark Melancon will now take the hill in the eighth after Andrew Miller worked the seventh.
Mid 7th, Blue Jays 5-0: Andrew Miller enjoyed a 1-2-3 seventh in his first inning of work, and the deficit stays at five.
Miller first struck out Anthony Gose, freezing him with a 97-mph fastball to pick up the K. He then got ahead of Colby Rasmus 1-2 before Rasmus grounded a nasty slider over to Pedroia at second. Miller then ended the inning by retiring Encarnacion on a flyout.
It took seven pitches to retire Encarnacion, who ran the count full, but it was a nice-looking inning for Miller. Mark Melancon was up warming in the Boston pen that inning, so we'll likely see him take over in the eighth. At this point, though, it's all about getting the offense going.
End 6th, Blue Jays 5-0: Laffey continues to wheel and deal for the Blue Jays.
He's given up six hits and has only struck out three, but the left-hander has been very efficient when it has counted.
Laffey started off the sixth by striking out Carl Crawford. Dustin Pedroia followed up the K with a base hit, but an Adrian Gonzalez flyout and a Cody Ross forceout spelled the end of any threat.
Josh Beckett will now take a seat with Andrew Miller coming on in the top of the seventh.
Beckett threw 96 pitches in this outing, 62 for strikes. Four of the five runs he surrendered were earned. The four runs came in the first two innings, and he settled down a bit before giving up the unearned fifth run in the fifth inning.
Mid 6th, Blue Jays 5-0: Beckett was able to sit down the Blue Jays 1-2-3 in the sixth, letting the Sox get some more hacks in while down only five runs.
He first retired Kelly Johnson, setting up the Blue Jays second baseman with the fastball before taking a little off and getting him to fan on a changeup. Beckett then started Yunel Escobar off with two straight curveballs before going back to the fastball, which Escobar hit on the ground over to Pedroia for the inning's second out.
The inning wasn't completely squeaky clean for Beckett, though, as Travis Snider walked following an eight-pitch battle — the Toronto outfielder fouled off three consecutive pitches before earning the free pass. However, Beckett bounced back to force Yan Gomes to ground out to third.
Fun tidbit on Yan Gomes: he's the first Brazilian-born player to play in the major leagues.
8:48 p.m.: Some guy just proposed to his girlfriend on the big screen…While wearing a Brett Lawrie Blue Jays jersey. Bold move all around.
End 5th, Blue Jays 5-0: Another scoreless frame in the books for the Boston attack.
Kelly Shoppach made sure things got off on the right foot, lining a base hit down into the left-field corner, but nothing would ever evolve from there. Shoppach actually threw on the breaks after a hard turn around first.
Mike Aviles struck out on a foul tip into the mitt, Pedro Ciriaco grounded out to Yan Gomes at third and Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to Edwin Encarnacion at first, putting a stop to any potential rally following the leadoff single.
Beckett is coming out for a sixth inning of work, but things are looking grim with the Sox offense currently dormant.
Mid 5th, Blue Jays 5-0: You've got to gator that ball, Will.
Beckett kicked off the top half of the fifth by striking out Colby Rasmus, who had been a terror for the Sox to this point. Will Middlebrooks couldn't cleanly gobble up a groundball off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, though, and he fired an errant throw to first. The play was ruled a hit and an error, and it resulted in Encarnacion standing on second base. Not for long.
Adam Lind delivered a line-drive base hit into left-center, bringing around Encarnacion for Toronto's fifth run. Fortunately for Boston, Beckett induced a 5-4-3 double play, but it wasn't before a little padding was placed on the lead.
End 4th, Blue Jays 4-0: Well, Beckett might be settling in a little bit, but Aaron Laffey has been doing it from the start.
Laffey once again kept the Red Sox offense in check in the fourth.
The lefty gave up a one-out single to Cody Ross after Adrian Gonzalez lined out to left, but he quickly made up for it by inducing a double play to end the inning. Middelbrooks bounced to Yunel Escobar at short to start the twin killing.
Becektt heads back out for the fifth, looking to keep the deficit at four until the Sox can muster up some offense.
Mid 4th, Blue Jays 4-0: Another solid inning from Josh Beckett; this one even better than the last.
Beckett struck out both Travis Snider and Yan Gomes to begin the inning. OK, so that's not exactly murderer's row, but Beckett looked impressive in sitting them down. He pounded Snider with mostly fastballs, and then picked up the K of Gomes by going to the breaking ball.
There's a lot to still be sorted out here, but this start kind of has a feel similar to Beckett's last, when he struggled mightily in the first inning before settling down. The problem, however, is that the Red Sox offense hasn't been able to push across any runs just yet, and the four runs surrendered by Beckett are already more than the three he gave up in his last outing.
End 3rd, Blue Jays 4-0: The Red Sox threatened to get on the board in the third, putting runners at the corners, but Aaron Laffey pitched his way out of it.
Mike Aviles legged out an infield hit to begin the inning, and Jacoby Ellsbury shot a ball back up the middle for a single two batters later. But after Carl Crawford's flyout to right set up first and third for Boston, Dustin Pedroia's looping line drive down the right-field line was tracked down by Anthony Gose just in front of Pesky's Pole.
The little bingo was a step in the right direction for the Red Sox offense, but it all went for naught. Beckett heads back to the mound looking to build off a strong third inning.
Mid 3rd, Blue Jays 4-0: Beckett settled down in the third after a rough first couple innings. After getting J.P. Arencibia to ground out back to the mound and Kelly Johnson to fly out to center, he K'd Yunel Escobar for the inning's final out.
Beckett needed an inning like that, not only to keep this game from getting away, but to keep his pitch count at a respectable total. The righty has thrown 48 pitches through three innings.
End 2nd, Blue Jays 4-0: Deuces have been wild for the Jays in the first two innings, while goose eggs are getting tossed around by the Sox. That's a recipe for disaster, kids.
Aaron Laffey shut down the Sox in order in the second inning, starting with Cody Ross, who shattered his bat while bouncing back to the mound. Will Middlebrooks lined one back up the middle, but Kelly Johnson made a nice backhanded snag for out No. 2, and Kelly Shoppach grounded out to short to end the inning.
The Blue Jays offense goes back to work, J.P Arencibia, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar due up for John Farrell's club.
7:45 p.m.: By the way, a "Let's go Blue Jays" chant got going that last half inning. Seriously.
Mid 2nd, Blue Jays 4-0: Yunel Escobar got the party started in the second inning with a double into the left-center field gap. He quickly moved over to third on a groundout by Travis Snyder. Then up stepped Colby Rasmus. The good Colby Rasmus.
The Jays outfielder also hit a lazer into the left-center field gap. His second hit plated Escobar and Anthony Gose — who Beckett went to two strikes on before walking — to give Toronto an early 4-0 lead.
Rasmus is now 2-for-2 following his first-inning triple and second-inning double.
Edwin Encarnacion walked before Adam Lind grounded out to Pedroia at second to end the inning.
End 1st, Blue Jays 2-0: As mentioned earlier on in this live blog — I know, I know, your mind's so blown it's hard to keep up — the Sox have fared well against lefty starters this season. Aaron Laffey fits that bill, but through one whole inning, he has survived.
Carl Crawford split a pair of flyouts by Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia with an infield single that rolled to shortstop Yunel Escobar. Despite nearly getting picked off, Crawford wouldn't go anywhere, though, as Adrian Gonzalez rolled one over to Kelly Johnson at second base for the inning's third out.
Mid 1st, Blue Jays 2-0: As someone in the press box just alluded to, Colby Rasmus is a strange hitter. There are times when he looks locked in, while there's other times that he looks like a fringe major leaguer.
Well, the good Rasmus came to bat in the first inning and promptly ripped a one-out triple over the head of Cody Ross in right. That set up a questionable play at the plate that resulted in the game's first run.
Edwin Encarnacion — who is having a career year, by the way — chopped a groudball to Will Middlebrooks at third. Middlebrooks quickly fired home in an attempt to cut down Rasmus. Kelly Shoppach — doing his best Jason Varitek impersonation — did an excellent job of blocking the plate, but the home-plate umpire ruled that Rasmus got his hand in ahead of the tag. That'd be fine and good if Rasmus actually ever touched the plate, which he did not.
Following the iffy (and by iffy, I mean garbage) call, the Jays kept the knocks coming. Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia followed up with back-to-back singles, which gave Toronto the 2-0 edge. Fortunately for Beckett and the Sox, the damage ended there, as they were able to spin a 1-6-3 double play to minimize the damage.
7:12 p.m.: We're off and running…
7:05 p.m.: Also worth noting that Bob Cowsill sang tonight's national anthem. He, of course, is a member of The Cowsills, a group based out of Newport, R.I.
Even if you don't know The Cowsills, surely you know one of their hits. Lloyd Christmas certainly does.
7 p.m.: It's 7 o'clock. Park your gluteus maximus on the couch and get ready for some good old-fashioned hardball.
By the way, good to see Quincy, Mass., hometown of yours truly, getting some daps tonight. The color guard on the field for the best song ever written was from Q-Town.
6:45 p.m.: While you're waiting around for this Friday night showdown, I'd like to direct you all to an awesome gallery we put together in the wake of Cody Ross' latest heroics. Plenty of bat flips included.
6:40 p.m.: Roughly 20-30 minutes away from first pitch, and we've got clear skies overhead. Very comfortable night at The Fens.
This is going to be a very big start for Josh Beckett. After Thursday night's win, it's easy to see some Sox fans are kicking up their feet on Cloud 9. But, like they say, momentum is only as good as your next day's starter. And, like I say, they're right.
Thursday's win was the type we could look back on and view as a season-altering victory, but we mustn't get ahead of ourselves. The Red Sox face a gauntlet in the coming weeks, and it's Beckett and Jon Lester who need to spearhead the starting pitching.
5 p.m.: Some other quick notes to pass along a couple hours away from game time: The Red Sox enter Friday night's game against lefty Aaron Laffey with a 20-10 record against left-handed starters this season. That's the second-best mark in the majors, and the Sox are also second in the bigs in slugging percentage (.465) and home runs (43) against lefties.
4:45 p.m.: The lineup cards are in, and it looks like Jarrod Saltalamacchia will once again be out of the starting lineup. Salty has really been struggling at the dish of late, and with the Sox facing another lefty in Aaron Laffey, manager Bobby Valentine elects to keep Kelly Shoppach in Boston's starting lineup for the third straight game.
With all of that said, the Sox lineup is identical to Thursday night's, with Pedro Ciriaco getting the nod as the designated hitter down in the No. 9 spot.
Here's a look at the complete lineups for Friday night's tilt.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Cody Ross, RF
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Kelly Shoppach, C
Mike Aviles, SS
Pedro Ciriaco, DH
Josh Beckett, P
Anthony Gose, RF
Colby Rasmus, CF
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
Adam Lind, DH
J.P. Arencibia, C
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Yunel Escobar, SS
Travis Snider, LF
Yan Gomes, 3B
Aaron Laffey, P
8 a.m.: With one swing, Cody Ross may have swung momentum in the Red Sox' direction as they gear up for a second-half push.
That's the overall hope amongst members of Red Sox Nation, and if you happened to be on Twitter Thursday night, you know exactly what I'm talking about. One blast into the Monster Seats — a walk-off shot off Ross' bat that took down Kevin Youkilis' White Sox — has Red Sox fans thinking things are heading in the right direction.
Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves; it's one game and one win in the midst of a very long season. But it certainly is encouraging to see a team that earlier in the season was rumored to have "toxicity" in its clubhouse come together, have fun and see it all pay off on the field.
Boston's next chance to prove it has found its stride comes on Friday night, when the Red Sox will host the Blue Jays for the opener of a three-game set at Fenway. Josh Beckett (5-7) grabs the ball, looking to build off his last start, in which he overcame some first-inning struggles to defeat the Rays.
The game's first pitch will be delivered at 7 p.m., and we'll keep you up to speed throughout the day. Also be sure to catch all of the exciting pregame action on NESN, starting with Friday Night Fenway Presented by iParty at 5:30 p.m.
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