|Game 51: May 31, 2009|
|Red Sox||8||W: Jon Lester (4-5)||29-22, 1 game winning streak|
|Blue Jays||2||L: Ricky Romero (2-2)||29-24, 1 game losing streak|
| Highlights: Terry Francona shook up the lineup (Pedroia, Drew, Youkilis, Bay, Lowell, Ortiz, Varitek, Ellsbury, Green) and the results were promising. Lester’s first inning was disquieting: Marco Scutaro led off with an infield single, Alex Rios walked, the pair executed a double steal, and Vernon Wells lofted a sacrifice fly to left. Through it all Lester worked ploddingly, which he does when he is overthinking.|
John Farrell must have said something to Jon Lester in the dugout after the end of the first because the southpaw picked up the pace for the rest of the game. Lester was the stopper for this series with his six innings of impressive pitching: 3 hits, 1 earned run, 3 walks, and 12 strikeouts. All three hits were infield hits.
While Lester had his best outing of 2009 Ricky Romero had his worst. Lasting only four innings, the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft allowed 6 hits, 5 earned runs, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 2 home runs. Others drafted after Romero and their draft slot: Troy Tulowitzki (7th), Cameron Maybin (10th), Jay Bruce (12th), Jacoby Ellsbury (23rd), and Matt Garza (25th and 2008 ALCS MVP).
J.P. Ricciardi might be looking for another club when his contract runs out in 2010. The Blue Jays have never made the playoffs under his stewardship and the best finish they had in the AL East was second place in 2006. Ricciardi can’t use the competitiveness of the division as an excuse anymore: the Rays have turned themselves around in fairly short period of time while Ricciardi has been with Toronto since November of 2001.
Kevin Youkilis, formerly the Greek God of Walks, is now the Swiss Army Knife of the Lineup. He can hit in any spot of the order and plays both corners with Gold Glove ability to boot. Unsurprisingly Youkilis cottoned to the three-hole well: he homered in the first and eighth innings.
He may have jacked two, but those were only solo shots. One of his fellow homegrown players knocked in three runs in the fourth inning and led the team in RBIs for the game, and he probably made sure everyone knew who had the most ribeyes in the game. Dustin Pedroia, who led off, knocked a shot off the foul net in left (Rogers Centre doesn’t have traditional poles).
David Ortiz was driven in by Pedroia, who he calls Mini-Me. Ortiz just missed a homer to begin the fourth. His fly ball caromed off the Nikon sign in center, high enough so that Vernon Wells didn’t have a play. Maybe this will be the hit that rekindles Papi’s spirits.
In the eighth Jason Bay continued to build his credentials for AL MVP votes and his case for a huge contract with his 15th four-bagger, propelling his homer into the Blue Jays’ bullpen just as Youkilis did right before him. Bay also doubled in the first inning.
Dennis Eckersley hasn’t broadcast more than a dozen live games and his reputation as a color analyst is already on par with his legend as a pitcher. Rance Mulliniks, who I didn’t like at first but grew to enjoy over the course of the series, commented drolly, “I’ve heard the Eckisms. I woke up in a cold sweat thinking about how to pronounce “Masterson.” And I make sure not to try and read people’s lips.”
The lanky reliever pitched two innings and Mulliniks pronounced “Justin Masterson” without incident.