Red Sox let early lead slip away to Jays
Ramirez's rare difficult relief outing leads to defeat
TORONTO -- Befitting his under-the-radar persona, Ramon Ramirez has been perhaps the most underrated member of the Red Sox this season, turning in a string of dominant performances out of the bullpen. But with Saturday's game against the Blue Jays on the line, Ramirez faltered.
The result was a 5-3 loss that dropped the Red Sox to 2-4 on this 10-game road trip. After allowing just two earned runs in his first 22 appearances with Boston, Ramirez, who came on in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied, matched that total in this one outing. He also gave up a season-high three hits, as his ERA went from 0.75 to 1.44.
On a rare day that the bullpen, by far the early strength of the 2009 Red Sox, didn't come through, the offense couldn't pick up the slack.
"That lineup can hit a little bit," catcher Jason Varitek said of the Jays. "[Ramirez] left some sliders up, and they were able to get the multiple hits. Ramon has done such a great job for us. That's kind of a fluky thing. If we're able to swing the bats better, we're not in that situation."
It marked the fifth game in a row the Sox scored three runs or fewer, and Ramirez was saddled with the loss on a day Boston managed just four hits, only two of which came after the second inning.
That left the bullpen with no margin for error.
"I was working like I do every day," Ramirez said. "I throw the ball the best I can. The ball was up. They hit it. I can't be perfect every time. I tried my best."
Nobody on the Red Sox doubted that.
"That's one of the first tough innings we've seen [from Ramirez]," said manager Terry Francona. "He just looked like he was having a hard time. Looking at his body language, he just looked like he was out of sync. You never want it to happen, but you're not going to go all year and be perfect. That's just the way this game is."
Ramirez came on in relief of Brad Penny, who went six innings and allowed 10 hits and two earned runs. The Jays started their winning rally when Marco Scutaro led off with an infield single. With one out, Scutaro moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a line drive single to center by Alex Rios. Vernon Wells provided insurance, roping an RBI double to center to score Rios
The Red Sox had taken a 3-1 lead on Rocco Baldelli's two-run homer to left in the third.
"It was a good swing," Francona said. "The wind was blowing in -- the wind was swirling actually. But he backspun it. I know he didn't get it by much, but it was a good swing."
But the joy was short-lived for Baldelli, who exited the game in the fifth inning after banging into the wall trying to catch a foul ball. The injury was a left knee contusion, and X-Rays were negative. Francona said that Baldelli won't play on Sunday, but the team hopes he will be available again when a three-game series opens in Detroit on Tuesday night.
The Red Sox dodged what could have a crushing injury in the top of the fifth, when Dustin Pedroia was belted on the side of his right knee by a pitch from Jays starter Brian Tallet. But Pedroia, after conferring with the training staff, stayed in the game.
"I'm all right," Pedroia said. "It's sore, but it's just one of those things. I couldn't really move and get out of the way. It's sore, but that's about it. Nothing serious. Yeah, it's swollen, but no big deal. I'll play [on Sunday]."
What happened to the Boston bats after the second inning? Tallet, as he's had a habit of doing this season, settled down.
"We made him work early, especially," said Francona. "Not a lot of hits but we had some baserunners. I thought we had a pretty good approach. He's done that this year -- all but probably one or two games -- where there have been baserunners and there have been some walks and throws that changeup and you look up in the sixth or seventh, and he's giving them a chance to win."
On this road trip, the Boston bats have often been stuck in neutral.
"The one thing, I think, when you are struggling or when you get two-out hits, it can mask a couple of days where everybody is sort of swinging the bats OK," Francona said. "When you hit into a double play or you don't get a two-out hit, that makes a four or five-day span a little more glaring."
The Jays, who ended a nine-game losing streak on Friday night, chipped away. For that, they can thank Adam Lind. In the third, Lind's RBI single sliced Boston's lead to 3-2. And in the sixth, Lind tied the game by clubbing a solo homer to left against Penny.
"I left too many fastballs running back over the plate," Penny said. "It wasn't a bad outing. It just seems like every mistake I made, they hit."
And for one of the few times this year, Ramirez actually made some mistakes.
"Ramon's awesome," said Penny. "You can't be perfect every time out. He's one of the best relievers in the game right now. I'll be glad to give him the ball every time I come off that mound."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.