TORONTO - A moment of silence for the Boston Red Sox, please.
The ragged remains of the storied franchise opened the first of their final three games of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday with a lineup that sported few recognizable names.
Of the Boston fans sprinkled around the Rogers Centre none wore the jerseys with the names of Gomez, Nava or Iglesias on their back.
“This is the weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball,” Boston manager Bobby Valentine lamented in his pre-game scrum. “We could use help everywhere.”
Valentine didn’t need any help in left field this game, however, as Daniel Nava hit a key two-run single in the fifth and then made an outstanding catch in the eighth — a momentum killer if there ever was one — to prevent the Jays from scoring the go-ahead run in a game Boston would win 8-5.
Boston would score three in the ninth, the big blow a two-run triple by Mauro Gomez.
An RBI double by Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie in the eighth tied the game 5-5, but it didn’t make up for his two bad baserunning decisions that led to outs in the first and eighth innings and his fielding faux pas that led to a 5-3 Boston lead in the fifth.
In the fifth with two out, a runner at second the game tied 3-3, Gomez hit a routine grounder to Lawrie. Instead of tossing to first for the third out, Lawrie decided to tag Mike Aviles, who was steaming over from second.
But when Lawrie went to apply the tag, Aviles performed a spin-o-rama and Lawrie overran him leaving runners at the corners.
Everybody knew what was going to happen next.
A walk loaded the bases followed by a two-run single to right.
Lawrie, though, refused to admit he erred.
“I went to go tag him and he just ... I don’t know,” Lawrie said. “I’ll have to watch the replay.”
Should he have simply thrown to first, was that his first instinct?
“Obviously, but out of the corner of my eye he was running full speed at me so I figured I’d just go tag him.”
In the eighth, with the game tied 5-5, Lawrie was at second with one out. Yunel Escobar followed with a grounder to short. Even though the ball was in front of him, Lawrie took off for third but was easily thrown out.
Again, Lawrie was unrepentant when asked if he regretted breaking to third.
“No because Escobar ended up getting to first base and then got to second on a passed ball so it’s the exact same thing,” he replied.
Jays manager John Farrell begged to differ.
“Over-aggressive, tried to force it, play was in front of him,” Farrell said. “He’s got to hold his ground right there.”
The good news is that Bruce Walton lived to tell the tale.
The popular Jays pitching coach survived a scary incident in Thursday’s game against the Seattle Mariners when, in the first inning, Edwin Encarnacion maple bat exploded on contact and the broken, jagged barrel flew into the Jays dugout striking Walton.
Walton, who said he tracked the bat all the way, put his hands up to his face in a instinctive protective move and that saved him from serious injury as the bat slammed into his forearms, leaving deep bruises on both.
“It was kind of a blur coming at me, it came at me so fast,” Walton said prior to Friday’s game. “Plus the bat was black and it was that time of night. At the last possible moment I knew I was in trouble and had to get my hands up and I just got them up in time ... It was like ‘Oh God’. I put my hands up and took the hit.
“It was like someone swung a bat and hit me as hard as they could with the barrel of the bat.”
Maple bats have been a focus of controversy ever since they came into use in 1997. Some are concerned about the bats and the manner in which they break apart. An ash bat usually breaks into multiple splinters, while a maple bat snaps with the barrel becoming a dangerous projectile.
Farrell is not a fan of maple bats, although he wouldn’t come right out and say they should be outlawed.
“Well, if there’s not a way to improve the current condition of them I think it’s a matter of time before someone else gets impaled,” he said. “Watch enough highlights, there’s close calls every night.”
Should they be banned?
“If you can’t improve upon them I think the current stage is dangerous,” he said. “When there was only ash bats was there a problem? I say no more.”
Walton was asked the same question.
“I don’t know,” Walton said. “I’m not the guy to ask other than being somebody who got hit by a maple bat that broke. It did come in hot and it was a little scary for me but it was the first one I’ve seen go in the dugout. I don’t know ... maple bats, ash bats, they do tend to break. Wood bats break.”
On that there is no debate.