Boston's bats back Byrd against Jays
New Red Sox starter struggles but offense picks him up
TORONTO -- Paul Byrd will be the first to admit that he was not at his best in Friday's game. Without full command of his pitches and facing the Blue Jays for a third consecutive start, the right-hander likened his performance to a survival act.
Along with the help of the Boston offense, though, Byrd pitched well enough to earn the victory as the Red Sox beat the Jays, 8-4, at Rogers Centre.
"It was like Boy Scouts -- survival," said Byrd, describing his start. "Just trying to make do with what I had. I didn't have great command tonight, I just had to make it work. You face a team three times and you'd like to have your command. But I went out there and battled and my team picked me up."
With the victory, Byrd -- who was acquired in a trade with the Indians on Aug. 12 -- earned his first win in a Red Sox uniform. The triumph also allowed the Red Sox (74-54) to keep pace with Tampa Bay in the American League East standings. The Rays defeated the White Sox on Friday and remain 4 1/2 games ahead of second place Boston.
Playing on a contending team such as the Red Sox is something that Byrd has welcomed. The help he received on Friday night did much to reinforce that thought.
"I'm just real excited to be a part of this team," he said. "They play great defense. They hit the ball. I'm having a great time."
The Red Sox pounded Toronto pitching for eight runs, the most Boston has scored against Toronto in a game this year. The win also snapped the Sox's six-game losing streak at Rogers Centre, dating back to May 10, 2007.
"We scored early and we stayed at it," said Boston manager Terry Francona. "We've had nights just like this, where we come in here and I'm explaining why we lost or how we lost. We found a way tonight to turn it around and have a good win."
Leading the way for Boston was second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who opened the scoring in the first inning by launching a 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall for a solo home run -- his 13th of the year.
In addition to the home run, Pedroia also notched a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, a frame which saw the Sox score four runs off of Jays starter Shaun Marcum (8-6). Boston shortstop Alex Cora was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score a run, while Coco Crisp added an RBI single and Jacoby Ellsbury had a run-scoring groundout.
Pedroia also added an RBI single later in the game. He led the Sox with three RBIs on the night.
"It's nice to score some runs against their pitching," he said of the Blue Jays (66-62), who entered the game leading the Majors with a 3.61 ERA. "They've got some great arms."
Also joining in on the offensive barrage for Boston was Jason Varitek, who clubbed a sixth-inning home run, and also scored three runs on the night. The catcher has now gone deep in three straight games. As well, the long ball for Varitek was the 156th of his career, placing him just one shy of Carlton Fisk's club record of 157 as a catcher.
Varitek downplayed his recent power surge.
"If they are three singles rather than three home runs, nobody is saying a word," Varitek said. "I was just able to put the good part of the bat on the ball."
Pedroia had a different opinion.
"He's been huge for us," Pedroia said of the Boston catcher. "He's hit the ball hard for a week and a half, two weeks now. Now, you're starting to see the results. It's definitely nice."
While Varitek has been swinging a hot bat lately, Byrd was quick to point out the catcher's defensive contributions. Varitek helped the starter navigate through the Jays lineup over the course of his six innings. Byrd allowed four runs on six hits, walking two and striking out four.
"I knew he was a good catcher, but he's a great receiver," Byrd said. "He's really good. He blocks the ball better than I thought he did. What he brings behind the plate in the wealth of knowledge is just great, so I've had a blast throwing to him. I think we've gelled pretty quickly."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.