|Papi paced Boston's big win with a pair of two-run homers (Boston Globe)|
For the first time this summer, it feels good to be a Red Sox fan. Not only have they won eight of their past nine to climb out of last place (however temporarily), but they’ve outscored their opponents 22-2 over their last three games. The pitching’s been untouchable and the offense, sparked by rookie call-ups such as Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts, has finally come around. After a listless half of baseball, the Red Sox seem to be kicking it into high gear with the threat of a possible trade deadline roster shakeup hanging over their heads.
After sweeping Kansas City at home over the weekend, the defending champs kicked off their ten-game road trip in Toronto with a smashing 14-1 victory. A season’s worth of frustrations came pouring out at the Rogers Centre last night as the Red Sox steamrolled the Blue Jays in what was easily the former's most convincing win of the season.
The floodgates opened after a scoreless first inning with Boston grabbing a quick 2-0 lead in the second behind run-scoring singles from Stephen Drew and Vazquez. In the third they strung together five two-out hits, the last an RBI double by Jackie Bradley, Jr. that chased Toronto starter Drew Hutchison from the game. The Blue Jays got one back in the bottom half of the frame with consecutive doubles from Erik Kratz and Juan Francisco, but John Lackey settled down to induce three straight groundouts, the last two of which were hit right back to him for easy outs.
The Red Sox continued their onslaught in the fourth against Brad Mills, who was brought in to put out the fire but instead proceeded to toss gasoline all over it. With Brock Holt on second via a leadoff double, David Ortiz took Mills deep for the 452nd home run of his career, tying another legendary Red Sox hitter by the name of Carl Yastrzemski (you may have heard of him) on the all-time list.
Big Papi, who has more home runs at the Rogers Centre than any active player besides Alex Rodriguez, would pass Yaz his next time up, drilling another two-run shot off Mills (again with Holt on base) the very next inning. By that point Boston's lead had swelled to 13-1, and they still weren't done. Mike Napoli followed up Ortiz's blast with one of his own, forcing John Gibbons to mercifully remove Mills from the game. Mills' stat line: seven hits (including three homers) and eight earned runs in two ugly innings. Poor Mills couldn’t catch a break; the Red Sox feasted on his fastball, pounding his every mistake like it was batting practice.
Boston battered Toronto pitching for a season-high 14 runs and 18 hits, four of which cleared the fences and four more landed for doubles. Napoli, Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts all went 3-for-5 while Holt, Ortiz, Bradley, and Stephen Drew recorded two hits apiece (Vazquez had the other and Dustin Pedroia/Jonny Gomes combined to go 0-for-5 out of the two-hole). Yes, even the slumping Stephen Drew got in on the action, slugging his third home run of the season and first since the Fourth of July.
Oh, and did I mention that John Lackey was wonderful? Pitchers are always forgotten in slugfests such as these, but Lackey was truly terrific in his first start of the second half. Goofy run support aside, Lackey earned his 11th win of the season by going seven innings, allowing only one run and two Blue Jays to reach base (the back-to-back doubles by Kratz and Francisco). With no walks and only 76 pitches through six, he likely would have gone the distance had the score not been so lopsided.
Boston will look to make it nine out of ten tonight with Jake Peavy, who could desperately use a win, on the mound. The Blue Jays, 13-25 since June 7th, will try to stop their skid with J.A. Happ on the hill. Happ, a lefty with an ERA just under five, has to be an inviting target for the Sox, who've hit considerably better against southpaws with a .714 OPS against them compared to .698 versus righties.