Laffey's gem can't save Jays

Toronto Blue Jays Aaron Laffey delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of...

Toronto Blue Jays Aaron Laffey delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of American League MLB baseball action at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts June 26, 2012. (REUTERS)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 PM ET

BOSTON - The Blue Jays may have found a stopgap starting pitcher here Tuesday but couldn’t turn that unexpected discovery into a victory.

After lightly-regarded Aaron Laffey delivered a gem of a ballgame for Toronto, shutting out the Boston Red Sox over six, three-hit innings, the Red Sox got to the Blue Jay bullpen for three runs in the seventh on their way to a 5-1 victory that levelled the three game series at a win apiece.

Lefties Ricky Romero and Jon Lester square off Wednesday afternoon in the rubber match.

Ever since Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison all went on the disabled list in a four-day span two weeks ago, the Jays have been on a scavenger hunt for a serviceable starter. They may have found one but now the bullpen clearly needs help.

“Aaron pitched a heckuva six innings for us," said Jays manager John Farrell. "Tonight was nearly three weeks since his last (minor league) start and we were looking at an 80-pitch limit for him. He gave us six outstanding innings.

“He had a very good recipe working. A lot of first-pitch strikes, established his fastball right from the get-go.”

After Laffey left after six, having thrown an efficient 82 pitches to stifle the No. 2 offence in Major League Baseball, Jason Frasor got two quick outs in the seventh, then gave up a game-tying home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

“As their lefthanders can do, they used that wall to their advantage,” said Farrell. “From there, we looked to match up.”

Luis Perez came on to face one batter and pinch-hitter Ryan Kalish lashed a double. David Pauley, a questionable choice in a tight ballgame, came on and hit Daniel Nava with a pitch, walked Mike Aviles to load the bases, then gave up a two-run single to Dustin Pedroia.

“In that seventh inning, we’ve got three (relievers) who were ahead in the count and that putaway pitch was elusive,” said Farrell, explaining Pauley was his choice because he has been effective against righthanded batters. He was thinking about Aviles and Pedroia.

“Groundball pitcher in this ballpark. We’re looking at the righthanders that Pauley is effective against. Groundball up the middle (by Pedroia) in this case. That’s the ballgame.”

Pauley came back out for the eighth and gave up two more runs on two doubles sandwiched around a single before newcomer Scott Richmond got the final three outs.

The Jays scored a quick run in the first inning off Daisuke Matsuzaka but after Brett Lawrie’s leadoff double and Edwin Encarnacion’s subsequent RBI infield single, things got very quiet around Fenway Park.

Laffey gave up a single to Aviles, the first man he faced, then didn’t allow another baserunner until Adrian Gonzalez led off the fifth with a double. In between, Laffey erased 12 batters in a row.

Then, with one out in the sixth, Dustin Pedroia walked and Fenway came to life. It got even louder when David Ortiz belted a double off the wall in left but went deathly silent again when Pedroia was gunned down at the plate on a good throw by left fielder Rajai Davis and an even better tag by catcher Jeff Mathis.

Meanwhile, Matsuzaka bent but didn’t break. After a first inning run the Jays threatened a couple of times but couldn’t push another run. In both the sixth and seventh innings, they left runners at third base. Matsuzaka left with two outs in the seventh, allowing seven hits and didn’t walk a batter.

ALVAREZ GETS THE OK

The Blue Jays got good news Tuesday evening when it was learned Henderson Alvarez is expected to make his next scheduled start on Saturday in Toronto against the Angels.

Alvarez underwent an MRI and had his elbow examined by Dr. Steve Mirabello in Dunedin Tuesday and was diagnosed to have “mild elbow inflammation.”

When Alvarez complained of some soreness during his Monday start against the Red Sox, he was immediately removed and the MRI was scheduled. The Jays are being ultra-cautious these days, given that three or their five starters went on the disabled list with injuries -- two of them elbows -- in a four-day span two weeks ago.

The spate of injuries has led to questions regarding the Blue Jays handling of their pitchers, especially the young ones but there is nothing in their methodology that would indicate flaws in their preparation.

“We always self-examine,” said manager John Farrell. “That’s the prudent thing to do to improve in any area. But when you look at the events that took place, two of the instances (Brandon Morrow and Drew Hutchison) were on the ninth pitch of the game without any previous indicators and in Kyle (Drabek) situation it was in the fifth inning. We feel confident there’s a sound process in place but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t look to re-examine in any area.

Because of the big money now involved in the drafting and development of arms, every team in baseball is careful with their young talent. The fact of the matter is that overhand throwing is an unnatural act and puts stresses on elbows and shoulders that some young athletes aren’t built to endure.

“I can’t speak for other organizations but there are pillars, or basic principles that you adhere to that help create basic framework in a program,” said Farrell. “But there are always going to be individual cases where either a previous arm or an arm action or something that might be an outlier.

“In the guys we’re looking at right now, you can’t pinpoint it to arm action, you can’t pinpoint it to overuse, as it relates to the industry so it’s unfortunate and at the same time, it’s a little puzzling.

“There’s a five-day routine, a shoulder strengthening program, all the maintenance work, all pretty standard within the industry. What we do is not radically at variance with anyone else.

“When you can point to anything tangible that might have been a cause, then you can look at something concrete and say ‘We need to adjust this.’ But when you look at what we’ve done, it’s hard to look at any one thing and say we shouldn’t have done that.”


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