Beckett, Sox fall flat, 6-1

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Beckett, Sox fall flat, 6-1

BOSTON Josh Beckett continued his first-inning struggles, giving up two runs against the Blue Jays Friday night at Fenway Park.

That was all Toronto would need on its way to a 6-1 victory.

Beckett went six innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. His record fell to 5-8 as his ERA rose from 4.44 to 4.53.

Beckett now has an ERA of 10.69 in the first inning this season, giving up a total of 19 earned runs in his 16 starts. He has also allowed an opponents batting average of .343 (23-for-67) in the first inning.

With one out in the first Colby Rasmus tripled to right field. Rasmus scored when Edwin Encarnacion, the next batter grounded to third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who attempted to throw out Rasmus at the plate. While replays appeared to show Rasmus missed the plate and catcher Kelly Shoppach tagged him, Rasmus was called safe with the Blue Jays first run. Adam Linds double to right put runners on the corners, with Encarnacion scoring on J.P. Arencibias single to left, giving Toronto a 2-0 lead.

Yunel Escobar led off the second with a double. With two-outs Anthony Gose walked and Rasmus double scored Escobar and Gose, giving Toronto a 4-0 lead.

Toronto added a run in the fifth when Encarnacion singled off Middlebrooks glove, advancing to second on Middlebrooks throwing error. Linds single drove in Encarnacion, putting Toronto ahead, 5-0.

Left-hander Aaron Laffey earned the win, improving to 2-1, with a 2.77 ERA. He went seven scoreless innings, giving up eight hits with no walks, and four strikeouts.

The Sox had runners on in every inning except the second against Laffey, but couldnt score. Their best chance came in the third when Mike Aviles led off with a single, taking second on Jacoby Ellsbury's one-out single, and advancing to third on Carl Crawfords fly out to right. But Aviles was stranded there when Dustin Pedroia flied out to right to end the inning.

The Sox squandered another opportunity in the seventh when Middlebrooks and Shoppach led off with singles. But, Mike Aviles was called out on strikes, Pedro Ciriaco grounded into a fielders choice, and Jacoby Ellsbury popped out in foul territory to end the threat.

Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless seventh. Mark Melancon pitched 1 13 innings, giving upa run on two hits and two walks with a strikeout, before Junichi Tazawa finished the ninth.

The Sox finally got on the scoreboard in the ninth. With runners on the corners and one out against Jays closer Casey Janssen Mike Aviles fielders choice scored Middlebrooks for the Sox lone run.

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

With Wright and Rodriguez set to return, Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss whether Tuesday’s game against the Rays will be the last start for Clay Buchholz.