3-4: Sox swept out of Toronto, 7-4

One pitch. That’s all it took for Manny Delcarmen to spoil Josh Beckett‘s 2008 debut. With the score 2-2 and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 5th, Jason Varitek called for a fastball on the outside corner at the knees. Delcarmen delivered a thigh-high inside fastball, which Frank Thomas crushed to provide the game winner in a 7-4 loss.

Beckett, for his part, was strong early, but seemed a little rusty. He came in throwing hard, but struggled to find the dish, uncharacteristically walking four hitters and needing 92 pitches in a short outing. He allowed only three hits and did strike out six in 4 2/3 innings, but one of those hits was a two-run shot by Vernon Wells. You could just see the frustration on his face as he threw that last 97 mph heater in the fifth, walking Wells to load the bases before Delcarmen’s fateful pitch. Last game, it was a changeup, this time, Thomas clobbered a fastball. What can you say? He’s going to the Hall for a reason (actually, 515 reasons and counting). The bullpen was just horrid this series; mercifully Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon closed it out with scoreless frames. Papelbon struck out the side in the 8th (that’s 7 Ks in 3 1/3 IP), and looked really strong doing it.

The defense was also bad in this game, particularly Julio Lugo. The guy was charged with three errors, two on bad throws to first base. Got another stomach worm or something, Julio? This is not the way to endear yourself to Red Sox Nation, after a bad initial season. People are already asking how many more years we have to put up with this shortstop play (the answer is three). But I’m willing to cut the guy some slack. He knows it’s a problem, and he’s trying to fix it. It was ugly, but so was Mike Lowell‘s three error game last April, and he ended with just 15 gaffes for 2007.

The Red Sox offense was not bad, garnering 10 hits and hammering three home runs, just not at the right times. The opportunities are just not lining up for the Sox. All the homers were solo shots: Jacoby Ellsbury cleared the right field fence for his first home run of the young season; don’t expect too many more of those, unfortunately. But it was a good moment for him. Varitek followed with one in the 5th, and J.D. Drew hit one out in the 7th. Drew’s offense is a pleasant surprise for a team that has little to be pleased with so far.

Okay, this is not a great start if you’re talking about defending your title. But let’s stop for a dose of reality. These players are good. They won it all last year, so it’s WAY too early to start worrying. It could be a lot worse; look at Detroit, who are 0-6 after their big offseason acquisitions. Secondly, you have to remember that these guys have been traveling now for close to three weeks. Factor in the international jetlag plus the living out of (admittedly nice) suitcases on the road, and this record is not that bad. It’s a long time to be away from your family, your home and your bed. Just sayin’ is all. But don’t take my word for it, listen to Tito:



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