A.J. Burnett’s five strike outs propel Jays to their only victory of the series


A.J. Burnett’s five strike outs propel Jays to their only victory of the series

(May 1, 2008) – The Blue Jays starved off a three game sweep by the Sox with a 3-0 behind a remarkable, three-hit pitching performance by Jays starter A.J. Burnett. In his 8.2 innings, Burnett kept the Sox off the scoreboard and racking up five strike outs while walking five batters.

Although Tim Wakefield followed Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka by going at least seven innings, the knuckleballer unfortunately picked up his first loss of the season. The knuckleball was not dancing for Wakefield tonight. Tonight was the first game where Wakefield did not record one strike out. Before tonight’s game his game low in strike outs was one and that was his last outing against Tampa Bay.

Toronto was patient with Wakefield and got to him for three earned runs on four hits while walking four times. In the top of the third, the Jays finally got on the board when Alex Rios singled and stole his seventh base of the season off of the Sox’s catcher Kevin Cash. Rios scored from second on a base hit by former National League Gold Glove Award winning third base man Scott Rolen, to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.

Wakefield ran into trouble two innings later when shortstop David Eckstein doubled down the right field line then hit Rolen on the left shoulder, put Jays on first and second and no outs. But a base running blunder by Eckstein saved Wakefield in the inning. Designated hitter Matt Stairs hit a high, towering fly ball to left field over the head of Manny Ramirez and Coco Crisp. Eckstein thought Crisp would have a play on the ball so he went back to second base to tag, not knowing Rolen was on his tail behind him. It was a play right out of “Little Big League,” you the movie where a 12-year-old boy manages the Minnesota Twins.

After realizing the ball hit the very top of the manual scoreboard, bouncing directly into Crisp’s hot, little hand, Eckstein motored his small legs to third base with Rolen fifteen feet behind him. There was going to be a problem. Crisp’s throw came back to the infield and was caught by shortstop Jed Lowrie. Not seeing Rolen in no-man’s land between second and third, Lowrie quickly threw to Cash to get Eckstein who rounded third because he saw Rolen barreling to third once he stopped. Due to his blunder, Eckstein became the first out of the inning. Rolen would score on a sacrifice fly by to center by Vernon Wells but thankfully for Wakefield it was the only run of the inning. It could have been a lot worse.

The bottom of the ninth inning looked as if there would be another come-from-behind victory for the Red Sox. After Jays closer B.J. Ryan struck our Ramirez looking and got Mike Lowell to fly out to center field, the chances were slim but rookie Brandon Moss worked a two-out walk to bring Crisp to the plate. It appeared to 36,000 fans at the Fens that Crisp flew out to Rios to end the game but as the Jays dugout was ready to empty to congratulate each other on the win, first base umpire, Brian Gorman called Ryan on a balk. Game was still on.

Could it be? Could it be for the third consecutive day another dramatic come-from-behind victory for the Red Sox? Well that is what the fans were hoping for. But I can tell you the baseball beat writers in the press box all threw their heads in their hands, getting ready to crumple up their articles for respective editors.

Given a second chance, Crisp lined a base hit into right field sending Moss to third and bringing the game-tying run to the plate in the hands of Lowrie. A lot of pressure was riding on a 24-year-old to be a hero like Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek before him. Lowrie has similar features to former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, could he pull off a “Virginia Tech” and bring the Sox back to tie the game like Ryan did against the Hokies last October? As B.J. Ryan fell behind in the count to Lowrie, Sox fans became louder and rowdier hoping for the best. But Ryan would battle back, catching the youngster starring wide-eyed at strike three.

Tampa Bay rolls into Fenway Park tomorrow night for a weekend series with the Red Sox for the first time this season. The Fenway Park occupants have revenge on their mind after their 3-0 series sweep down in the Florida sun. See I always told you sun does bad things to you. (No, I am not going to go all Shonda Schilling on you.)That is the reason I wear globs of sunscreen even though it is the worst feeling in the world but it is better than turning a bright red color.

Under the Friday night lights, Clay Buchholz will take the mound against Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson, in a re-match of last Saturday night where the Rays won the game 2-1. Buchholz made one mistake, in eight innings, was to second baseman Akinori Iwamura, gave Tampa Bay the one-run victory. Jackson, who was saved a loss by Iwamura, allowed just one run on five hits while walking three and striking out four in seven innings. On the season the Rays righty is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 22 strike outs while Buchholz is 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA and 27 strike outs. In the words of T.I. “may the best man win, partner.”

WIN: A.J. Burnett (3-2)

LOSS: Tim Wakefield (2-1)

SAVE: B.J. Ryan (3)


Game Notes:


Terry Francona decided not to push neither J.D. Drew (quadriceps) nor Jacoby Ellsbury (groin) back into to the line up for tonight’s series finale against the Blue Jays. Francona told Globe reporters that Drew was going to be shagging balls in right field before tonight’s game.

Although David Ortiz is in the starting line up tonight, the Sox designated spent time today on the elliptical machine to stretch out his surgically repaired knee; which is still sore from when he dove into the first base bag trying to beat out a double play. Francona also noted there is nothing structurally wrong with Ortiz’s knee, a sigh of relief to the majority of Sox fans.

As for closer Jonathan Papelbon, Francona still has not reached decision about whether he is available. He pitched the ninth innings in the last two games and Francona is still worried about the 27-year-old’s shoulder.

The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. A.J. Burnett, TORONTO 8.2IP, 3H, 0ER, 5BB, 5K
  1. Alex Rios, TORONTO 3-5 3 Singles, Homerun, RBI
  1. David Ortiz, BOSTON 2-4 2 Singles

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