TORONTO — The good news for the Red Sox in their series opener at Rogers Centre Monday night was that the offense pounded out 18 hits. The bad news for the Sox was that their pitchers allowed 16. Still, in the end it was the visitors who came out on top in a wild affair with the Red Sox claiming a 13-12 win over the Blue Jays. (Click here for a recap.)
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX (HINT: ALL HITTING)
– Jason Varitek is on fire: The Sox captain notched his first three-hit game since last July 30, and just his third since the beginning of the 2008 season. What also was impressive was that two of the three hits came from the left side of the plate. Varitek is now 7-for-20 against right-handed pitchers (.350). The catcher also had four RBI and two runs against the Jays.
– The entire offense was clutch: As our stat man Gary Marbry pointed out, the Red Sox spent last week altering their trend with runners in scoring position, hitting .347 in such situations with an MLB-high 1.202 OPS. The wave of timely hitting continued against the Jays, with the Sox going 11-for-20 with runners in scoring position. Four Sox hitters — Darnell McDonald, Bill Hall, Mike Lowell, and Varitek — came through with runners in scoring position and two outs.
– The top of the order worked well: Dustin Pedroia had lamented that the Red Sox hitter had better start concentrating on producing runs, and by producing runs he explained “touching home plate with our feet instead of our bat.” So the lineup’s top three hitters — Marco Scutaro, Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis — took it upon themselves to do just that, produce runs. All three came away with three-hit games while scoring a combined nine runs and knocking in a collective four RBI.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX (HINT: ALL PITCHING)
– The Josh Beckett Mystery continues: Beckett suffered through his shortest outing since Aug. 17, 2008 (2.1 innings vs. the Jays), giving up eight runs on nine hits over three innings. Beckett walked three, struck out three, and was victimized by a six-run third inning by Toronto. Beckett’s ERA now stands at 7.22, and he has allowed five or more runs in three of his five starts. If you’re looking for one pitch that failed the Sox’ starter it might have been his fastball, which six of the hits against Beckett came off of. The Jays also notched a pair of hits against the righty’s curveball, and one Lyle Overbay double came on a changeup.
– Scott Atchison’s time with the Sox might be dwindling: Atchison came on for Beckett after the starter walked the first two batters of the fourth inning and ultimately lasted 1 2/3 frames, giving up a run on two hits while walking a batter. He has allowed at least one run in five of his seven appearances, and with the Red Sox slated to bring back Daisuke Matsuzaka for a start Saturday Atchison (who has an option left) is the odds-on favorite to make the trip to Triple A Pawtucket.
– Schoeneweis might also be in a tenuous position: The lefty followed up Atchison by succumbing to one run on two hits over just one-third of an inning. The game marked the third straight outing for the lefty in which he surrendered two hits and didn’t last a full inning. Meanwhile, down at Triple A Pawtucket, another lefty, Alan Embree draws closer to his opt-out date of April 30. If the 40-year-old isn’t on the 25-man roster by Friday he has said he will look for employment in another organization. Embree hasn’t allowed a hit in his last five relief appearances with the PawSox, having given up just two in his 7 1/3 innings of work. He also has yet to allow a hit to any of the 15 left-handed hitters he has faced.