Coming into Sunday’s game, the Red Sox had a chance to capture their first three-game series sweep since July 18-20 over the Royals. Like most good things this season, it didn’t happen. R.A. Dickey pitched seven strong innings, Jose Bautista hit a three run homer, and the Jays beat the Sox 3-1.
Rubby De La Rosa took the hill for the Sox and he entered the game with the best ERA of the rotation at 3.89. He managed to pitch his way out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning with a big strikeout of Edwin Encarnacion, but he couldn’t fool Jose Bautista in the fifth. Bautista knocked in all the Jays’ runs with a three-run blast over the monster, which capped a short, 81-pitch outing for Rubby (4 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO).
Steven Wright came on in relief and provided the lone bright spot of the game for Boston. He pitched five shutout innings, allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out six in just his second appearance of the season. He is now two for two in stellar long-relief performances. Wright also threw four solid innings against Houston in a blowout loss on August 17th in which he allowed just one run on a solo homer. The knuckleballer had a 3.41 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 15 starts for Pawtucket this season, although he got roughed up in his last two starts for the PawSox. Although he may not get a shot at the Red Sox rotation with so many other young arms to compete with, he has made his case for a bullpen slot next year.
Wright was only the second-most famous knuckleballer in this game, however, as Dickey had his knuckler working for Toronto. He held the Sox to just one run on six hits in his seven innings of work, and he did not walk a batter. Although Dickey has failed to match the standard he set in his 2012 Cy Young campaign, he has put together a respectable season for Toronto, as his ERA dropped to 3.84. Brett Cecil and Casey Janssen combined for two innings of perfect relief against the hapless Sox bats to finish off the afternoon.
The bright spots in the Sox lineup continue to be youngsters Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, who combined for four of the six Red Sox hits. Bogaerts, moving up to the five-spot in the lineup, knocked in the lone Sox run with a two-out single in the sixth, just his 35th RBI of the season. Xander has done nothing but rake since returning from a concussion, hitting .363 in those nine games. Mookie had a double and also stole a base in his second straight day filling in at leadoff for Brock Holt, who sat out due to illness. Mookie played right field in a potential preview of his future position – especially if Allen Craig, currently hitting .109, continues to look more lost than Jackie Bradley Jr. at the plate – alongside Yoenis Cespedes in left and Rusney Castillo in center. Speaking of JBJ, he had a rare error in the fifth, his first of the season.
Toronto (73-69) takes the season series 12-7 from Boston. They will begin a series against the Cubs at home tomorrow, as they trail Seattle by five games for the second wild card spot. The Red Sox (63-80) begin a series with Baltimore tomorrow and need a sweep to avoid being mathematically eliminated from the AL East race (the magic number for elimination is down to one with 19 games still to play). The more important magic number is seven, the number of wins needed to surpass the dismal 2012 season. They’ll turn to Joe Kelly tomorrow as they continue the quest for 70 wins.