Knuckleballer fires blanks as Red Sox brush aside Blue Jays
TORONTO -- Did somebody say something about it being a getaway game?
There were no bleary eyes, no heavy legs and simply no road-weariness about the Red Sox at Rogers Centre on Thursday. The visitors were in no hurry to clear customs, not after bashing the Blue Jays for the third consecutive night, this one an 8-0 victory that completed a sweep, not to mention a 5-1 road trip.
These are good times for the Red Sox, who rode Tim Wakefield's knuckleball and another high-powered night by the offense to their 16th win in the last 21 games.
"We're just playing good baseball," said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who homered for the third straight night. "We're pitching, we're hitting, we're playing defense. We're clicking right now."
Conversely, the Blue Jays are in a click-free zone, mired in what will undoubtedly be looked at as the low point of their season. They learned before the game that dominant closer B.J. Ryan (Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery) won't pitch again in 2007 and then proceeded to extend their losing streak to nine games.
"They're injured. They're not their normal team," said Lowell. "Sometimes you catch a team where you're playing good and they're not. It's a long season and things tend to go back and forth sometimes."
Making it even tougher to swallow for the Jays is that they had their ace on the mound in Roy Halladay. But the Red Sox pounded Halladay for six runs in the third inning and had an eight-run lead after four frames.
In one of the most forgettable nights of his career, Halladay gave up 11 hits and eight earned runs over five innings.
"We've faced him so many times, it's nice to finally have a game where you have some success," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We've battled him so many times, we finally found some holes, used the whole field and got the best of him. Obviously, that's somebody that we respect as much as anybody in the league."
Then there was Wakefield, who flustered the Blue Jays to the tune of three hits over seven shutout innings. Did Wakefield even break a sweat? While throwing 93 pitches, the venerable veteran walked one and struck out five, lowering his ERA to 1.79, which is currently tops in the American League.
"Definitely he's throwing the ball great," said personal catcher Doug Mirabelli. "He's going out there every day and giving us a chance to win. This was just another effort of his when he had a good knuckleball. We scored some runs early in the game and it lets him relax a little more and even use his fastball a little more than he would normally."
Mirabelli, in fact, had a big hand in Wakefield's clean outing. The Jays loaded the bases with one out in the second. Then came a huge play, as Wakefield struck out Frank Thomas and Mirabelli made a snap throw to first baseman Kevin Youkilis to nail a leaning Troy Glaus for an inning-ending double play.
"Dougie with the quick feet and Youk heads up," said Francona. "At the time that's a huge play. They've got the middle of the lineup up and Wake is struggling to find the plate. Once we did that, he settled down and was tremendous."
Just how much did Wakefield settle down? He faced the minimum of 18 batters over his final six innings of work. The only baserunner he allowed was Vernon Wells, who led off the seventh with a single, only to be erased on a double-play grounder by Glaus.
The hitting heroics seemed to go from top to bottom. Youkilis returned from a one-game hiatus (sore left leg) by drilling three hits, scoring twice and driving in two runs.
Lowell continued his hot start with a three-run homer that punctuated the third-inning eruption. What's with Lowell and the power binge?
"They come in streaks," said Lowell. "Hopefully this one keeps going."
During the three-game set, the Red Sox outscored the Jays 26-5.
Manny Ramirez added two hits to the cause and, thanks to another big lead, was able to exit early for the second game in a row. Ramirez's single in the third gave him 132 RBIs lifetime against the Blue Jays, surpassing Harold Baines as the all-time leader in that category.
J.D. Drew broke out of his slump with a pair of hits. Alex Cora went 2-for-4 to boost his average to .415. The Red Sox are now 10-0 when he starts.
But the key to the series -- and the road trip -- was the pitching. The Sox didn't allow more than three runs in any game on the journey, which started in Minnesota.
"It sets the tone," Francona said. "It gives you a chance to win every night. It doesn't ensure you're going to win but it gives your offense a chance if you don't start out swinging the bats. If you do, it takes the heat off the bullpen. Nobody got overused. Nobody was on fumes down there. That's a very good way to play the game."
The Red Sox clubhouse was full of good vibes as they packed up and headed home for a 10-game homestand.
"I think our focus has been real good and our enthusiasm in the dugout, even if we have to create it ourselves some nights," said Francona. "I think we've done a good job of that."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.