TORONTO -- Good afternoon from Rogers Centre, where the sports section of Wednesday’s Toronto Globe and Mail devoted its first four pages to the hockey playoffs and its fifth page to the UEFA Champions League playoffs in soccer. Then it shared the news of the Blue Jays’ 9-7 win over the Red Sox on page 6. We all have our priorities, don’t we?
The Sox, who ended April with the best record in the majors (18-8), have lost back-to-back games only twice this season and on Wednesday night have unbeaten Clay Buchholz (5-0) bidding to make it six wins in six starts. There are few better places for him to do so than here, judging by the track record. Buchholz has a 1.67 ERA in nine starts in the Rogers Centre, the lowest ERA of any pitcher with at least 55 innings in this building.
Buchholz has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his past seven starts in Toronto, dating to July 17, 2009, and collectively the Jays are batting just .214 against him. Edwin Encarnacion, who hit two home runs for the Jays in their win Tuesday night, is just 1-for-15 against Buchholz, while catcher J.P. Arencibia is hitless in 11 at-bats and third baseman Brett Lawrie is 1-for-10.
How good has Buchholz been? Read Tony Lee’s rundown, but Buchholz is only the third Sox pitcher since the dead ball era (pre-1920) to hold opponents to two runs or fewer over at least seven innings in each of his first five starts of a season. The others are Roger Clemens in 1991 and Boo Ferriss in 1945; they both did it in their first seven. The last big leaguer to do so was Livan Hernandez for the Giants in 2002. Hernandez did not transform his great start into a great season; he wound up 12-16 with a 4.38 ERA, his 16 losses leading the National League.
Whoa, Papi: The other Sox player on a historic run these days is David Ortiz, who drove in four runs Tuesday night with his third home run and a three-run double, and has 15 RBIs in his first nine games. Ortiz is also batting .500 (18-for-36), which makes him just the third player to hit .500 with at least 15 RBIs in his first nine games. The other two are Hall of Famers: Dave Winfield (17-for-34, 16 RBIs in 1988 for the Yankees) and Willie Mays (17-for-34, 17 RBIs in 1964 for the Giants).
And Ortiz has feasted on the Jays’ starter, left-hander Mark Buehrle, batting .361 (22-for-61), with three home runs and 13 RBIs.
Pinch me: Don’t know how to check this, but there can’t be too many hitters who have yielded to pinch hitters under the same circumstances as Mike Carp. In Cleveland on April 17, Carp had two doubles and a triple in his first three plate appearances but was lifted against a lefty for a pinch hitter, Jonny Gomes, who struck out. Then Tuesday night, in his second plate appearance, Carp launched his first home run of the season, but when his turn came around again, a lefty was on the mound and Gomes pinch hit again. This time, Gomes hit a home run, his first.
Carp, who was basically the last player to make the team out of camp, has gotten off to a great start, batting .458 (11-for-24) with a home run and six RBIs. Among big leaguers with at least 25 plate appearances so far, Carp leads the majors in slugging percentage (.958) and OPS (1.458). But with Buehrle on the hill, he’ll start the night on the bench.
Call his shot? Dustin Pedroia is tearing it up of late, batting .462 (12-for-26) over his past seven games, but now has gone 160 at-bats since his last home run, the longest homerless streak on the club. Pedroia last went deep Sept. 11 off Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees.
Step lightly: It goes into the books as a caught stealing, Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow catching Jacoby Ellsbury off second base with two on, two out and Mike Napoli at the plate, the Sox down a run in the fourth inning. Manager John Farrell did not let the moment pass without a comment.
“At the time, overaggressiveness on our part," Farrell said when asked about it. “We felt like we had Morrow coming to the end of the night. Unfortunately [Ellsbury] got picked off second. Not a real good heads-up play given the game situation.”