Sometimes a score does not reflect a game.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox seemed to have had a close outing last night in Fenway Park. After a long hour of a rain delay, the 36, 677 baseball fans who stayed witnessed the possible finale of hope Jays fans had in making the playoffs.
The wild card race has been much more competitive than in previous years, especially with the A.L. East division pretty much locked up by the Baltimore Orioles. The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners held the wild card spots, with the Blue Jays five games back. The Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and New York Yankees were standing in between the Jays and their objective.
Clay Buchholz took the mound for the Red Sox, once the skies stopped dumping their tears onto the field. His last game against the Blue Jays was very dominant and was looking to do the same last night. Buchholz looked to take his dismal 5.40 ERA and 6-8 record out on a Jays team who seemed to look vulnerable to his off-speed pitches.
The Jays countered with J.A. Happ, who had a reasonably decent season in 2014. He was 9-8 with a 4.37 ERA, but had only two wins in his last ten appearances. Much of that had to do with the lack of run support he received last month. This would not be news to the rest of the Blue Jays starting rotation, who were plagued with the same problem, hence the downward spiral the team’s playoff chances had taken to this point.
The game started off well for the Blue Jays as Edwin Encarnacion singled to left and Adam Lind walked, setting the table for Dioner Navarro. The Blue Jays catcher doubled for the 19th time to right field. Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig could not be blamed for forgetting how many outs there were this time, as Encarnacion scored from second base.
From that point on, the Red Sox were in control. Mookie Betts, who has been on a tear for the Red Sox lately, continued to prove why he is going to be the future of Fenway’s center field by ripping off a triple over Anthony Gose, who misjudged how deep the ball was spanked. Next batter was Dustin Pedroia, who attacked a pitch into play. Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins made a fantastic play fielding the ball to get Pedroia at first base, which impressed Rogers Sportsnet announcers Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler to no end, except that the rest of the audience was impressed by the grounder scoring Betts.
Will Middlebrooks continued the scoring by singling to left field, bringing in Mike Napoli in the bottom of the second inning. The big red machine, Yoenis Cespedes (not Cincinnati) doubled for the 34th time this season, scoring David Ortiz from first base. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Christian Vazquez also doubled to score Middlebrooks from first base.
You might be pondering how Ortiz must have moved his 230-pound frame around the bases so quickly to score. The same goes for Middlebrooks, who is not exactly piercing the wind when he gets on base either. It is because of the real story of this game that symbolizes the Blue Jays 2014 season.
Jose Bautista, by all accounts one of the best outfielders defensively in baseball, misjudged how the Cespedes hit would carom off the wall. The ball squirted away from him, leaving Ortiz with the opportunity to score. The Vazquez hit smacked off the top of the wall, giving Middlebrooks the same opportunity, which later became the winning run.
Colby Rasmus, the prodigal son who was banished to be a role player for the rest of the season, hit his second home run as a pinch hitter on this road trip in the bottom of the seventh inning. The bomb to right field, just staying fair, scored Danny Valencia to pull the Blue Jays within one run.
That’s how close the Blue Jays would get. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with Encarnacion and Navarro on base, Kevin Pillar sent a soft fly ball to center field. Betts flied, more than dived, for the incredible catch to end the threat and the Blue Jays’ hopes for winning the ball game.
Brandon Morrow made an appearance for the first time in ages in the bottom of the eighth. A pretty smooth outing, getting Craig and Vazquez to fly out and Middlebrooks to ground out to end the side.
Both teams got eight hits from their batting lineups, but timing is everything. Happ bled four runs slowly at the beginning of the game, putting the Blue Jays on the defensive. Happ walked three batters while striking out five in six innings of work. Buchholz gave up two runs and two walks while striking out five in 6.1 innings. Both teams only scored once with runners in scoring position. The difference was the Red Sox scored their runs by capitalizing on the mistakes made by the Blue Jays in the field.
The Blue Jays have been an injury, a misplayed ball, a hit, a stolen base, and one of each of the other plays in baseball from getting into the postseason this year. Playing in October means that you can make those plays against teams with losing records. If you can’t make the plays, be prepared for disappointment.