Defense, relief corps let Sox down
Napoli, Panda can't make plays, while Barnes, Tazawa struggle in Blue Jays' nine-run seventh
BOSTON -- The Red Sox can only hope the top of seventh inning Friday night will represent the lowest point of their season. In that frame, a combination of shoddy relief and inconsistent defense led to a meltdown nobody saw coming.
Nine straight Toronto hitters reached base to start the seventh. All nine of them scored. This is how the Red Sox suffered a 13-10 loss in a game they led, 8-1, after three innings.
"We're well aware of where we were with an 8-1 lead," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "This is our job. Games like this do happen, they can happen. Obviously it has. It's up to us to come in here ready to play [Saturday]."
It has been an unsettling couple of days for the reeling Red Sox, who followed a thrilling comeback victory Sunday with four straight defeats.
In Thursday's loss, lefty Wade Miley engaged in a shouting match with Farrell in the dugout en route to being swept out of Baltimore.
And just when Friday looked like it would be a fresh start, it turned into an in-game nightmare. This marked the first time the Red Sox blew a lead of at least seven runs in a loss since April 21, 2012, against the Yankees.
Sure, the Blue Jays are red-hot, as evidenced by their nine wins in a row. But the Red Sox know they've got to be better at damage control then they were in the seventh.
Matt Barnes started the inning in place of Joe Kelly and gave up three straight hits, the last of which was a single by Jose Reyes that eluded the normally reliable Mike Napoli.
"I tried to get low on the ball," said Napoli. "I just didn't make the play. It was almost like a little bit of a changeup off the end a little bit, but it's a play that I make and I should make. It just came up and I missed it."
Then it was on to Junichi Tazawa, Boston's ace setup man, who, for whatever reason, struggles against the Blue Jays. This night was no exception. He was greeted with three straight hits and then an error on third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who has struggled on defense in recent weeks.
"We didn't anticipate some of the misdirection on some of the plays, particularly the backhand," said Farrell. "This is still about Pablo and the work he puts in, which he does consistently. And yet, we're still trying to get a rhythm over there for him to field a number of different balls -- whether it's the short backhand, whether it's the long hop to the forehand. That's all part of his work routine."
Instead of picking up Sandoval, Tazawa served up a three-run triple to Russell Martin that gave the Blue Jays the lead.
To the credit of the Red Sox, the offense nearly came storming back. They loaded the bases in the eighth and Napoli came up as the tying run. But he struck out on three pitches against lefty Brett Cecil.
"I can leave the park in one swing. I could've tied that ballgame up or hit a ball off the wall or in the gap," said Napoli. "That was my mindset going up there and I got a fastball first pitch and fouled it off. When I'm going good, I don't foul that off. My mindset was going up there, trying to drive something and do some damage. It didn't happen."
It seems nothing is happening for the 27-35 Red Sox right now, but they can only hope things will change.
"Well, I wouldn't write this team off," said Farrell. "This is still a team that has got a long track record of individual performance, and we have to put some things together as a team in all phases. This isn't to single anyone out. You can say it was a strong offensive night tonight. It takes the other two components, the pitching and the defense, to work in combination."