Thursday, April 17, 2014
By Kevin Thomas email@example.com
BOSTON - The day began with a feel-good story at Fenway Park. Then it got strange then frustrating. Relief followed. And finally defeat.
The feel-good story featured Jonathan Diaz sitting in the Red Sox dugout before the game, beaming.
Just 90 minutes earlier, Diaz, 28, was in Rhode Island with his wife, Kerry, and three daughters, spending time together before his game in Pawtucket.
"I was just hanging out with my family and I got the call out of nowhere," Diaz said. "It was a nice call."
After seven years in the minor leagues (he played against the Sea Dogs last year, with New Hampshire), Diaz was called up to the major leagues. Stephen Drew's hamstring was hurting and Will Middlebrooks was not yet eligible to be called back up, so Boston turned to Diaz.
Unfortunately it did not turn out wonderfully for Diaz.
The strange feeling at Fenway came from the sellout crowd of 37,437. Apparently Toronto fans ventured south, taking advantage of the Canada Day weekend.
When Boston fans chanted "Let's go Red Sox," there was an echo chant of "Let's go Blue Jays."
Not used to Fenway being invaded so heavily.
The Blue Jays had plenty to cheer about, even though Felix Doubront pitched a solid 6 1/3 innings (five hits, two runs, three walks, six strikeouts).
But Doubront made two clear mistakes, one mental, one physical. After issuing a four-pitch walk to Jose Bautista in the first inning, Doubront went into the stretch and never looked at Bautista, who stole second easily. Two batters later, Adam Lind's RBI single made it 1-0.
"They capitalized in that first inning with that stolen base. He gives up the run but settled in and got much more consistent location with his fastball," Boston Manager John Farrell said. "Another solid outing by Felix."
In the sixth, Doubront fell behind 2-and-0 to Bautista. Needing to be careful, Doubront elevated an 88 mph cut fastball that Bautista hammered for a solo home run and a 2-0 lead.
Still, as Farrell said, it was a good outing.
Meanwhile, Boston stranded runners in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. It was looking like it might be that kind of day for the Red Sox, so they decided to force the issue.
Shane Victorino led off the sixth with a double and Dustin Pedroia followed with a hard-hit single to right. Third-base coach Brian Butterfield waved in Victorino, even though there were no outs, and Bautista threw him out.
"We looked to put pressure on their defense," Farrell said. "We're looking for any way to score. We left some opportunities out there. I have no question with the decision of Brian Butterfield. I'll live and die with every decision he makes.
"We forced (Bautista) to throw a 260-foot strike and he did."
David Ortiz followed with a single. Both he and Pedroia were stranded after strikeouts by Mike Napoli (his third of four) and Daniel Nava.
In the seventh inning against 42-year-old left-handed reliever Darren Oliver, Boston put runners on first and third with no outs, on singles by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jose Iglesias, and an error.
Diaz, already 0 for 2, was coming to bat.
Should Boston have pinch hit Jonny Gomes for Diaz? Gomes hits lefties well, but Oliver is a strange left-hander who is tough against right-handed batters (who are hitting .146 against him). Gomes is 0 for 5 lifetime against Oliver.
Farrell called for the safety squeeze, "looking to stay out of the double play," he explained. "When it's executed, it's a high percentage play."
But Diaz's bunt was not far enough away from the elder Oliver. He charged in and threw out the slow-footed Saltalamacchia.
Jacoby Ellsbury was next up, and he singled.
Victorino followed with a two-run single for a 2-2 tie. All seemed happy at Fenway, although those lost chances prevented a Red Sox lead.
Alex Wilson relieved Doubront in the seventh and retired the two batters he faced. But Farrell then went to Junichi Tazawa in the eighth, a pitcher Toronto has hit hard.
Two batters later and Toronto led 4-2 -- Jose Reyes singled and Bautista then homered on a split-fingered fastball that stayed up.
In six outings (51/3 innings) against the Blue Jays, Tazawa has allowed six runs on eight hits (four homers). He's allowed only three runs combined against everyone else.
In the ninth, two errors, including one by Diaz, bring in two runs.
So the feel-good story did not last long, and the Red Sox (49-34) could not get win No. 50. Farrell has usually been successful with his aggressive approach, but the gambles Saturday turned into squandered opportunities.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: