TORONTO -- Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster was drafted in 1995, a year after Jack Morris retired, but this was the first time the native son of Canada (Gibsons, British Columbia) had pitched a big-league game here.
Home-field advantage? Given that the distance between T.O. and B.C. is more than 2,700 miles, that’s a bit of a stretch. And the Blue Jays didn’t exactly break out the Welcome Wagon, Brett Lawrie hitting Dempster’s third pitch of the night for a leadoff home run.
The night threatened to take another bad turn in the third, when Dempster walked the bases loaded with one out, then missed with his first two pitches to Edwin Encarnacion.
That’s when a fellow traveler, pitching coach Juan Nieves, decided to pay a visit to the mound. His timing proved impeccable. Encarnacion hit the next pitch for an inning-ending double play, Dempster bellowing his approval as he came off the mound, and the pitcher settled in thereafter, allowing just one hit and striking out four before turning the game over to the bullpen.
Pending a video review by pitcher-turned-broadcaster Morris, who accused Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz of throwing a spitter in Wednesday night’s game after watching the film, Dempster was strictly Canada dry. He also remained undefeated on this side of the border, his 3-1 win over the Blue Jays running his record to 6-0 in Canada, including five wins over the [R.I.P.] Expos of Montreal.
Just enough: With David Ortiz getting a scheduled night off and the Blue Jays opening the roof of the Rogers Centre for the first time this season, the Sox were not as imposing offensively as they had been in their first five games here, in which they hit 16 home runs, including five Wednesday night.
They won Thursday night not with power but with patience, coaxing seven walks from Jays starter J.A. Happ, forcing his departure with two outs in the fourth inning. Mike Carp, whose hot start as a part-timer makes him a poor man’s Ortiz, singled home a run in the second and Stephen Drew followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 2-1.
Pen bullish: Andrew Miller put the tying runs on base in the seventh, when Colby Rasmus singled and took second on a wild pitch and Munenori Kawasaki walked, leading John Farrell to summon Junichi Tazawa. He walked Lawrie on a full count to load the bases, but blew a fastball past Adam Lind to leave ‘em loaded.
Koji Uehara gave up a one-out single to Encarnacion, but then struck out the next two batters, which meant sore hands in the Sox dugout from another wild round of Koji-fiving, leaving it for Andrew Bailey to close out the Jays.
Except it wasn’t Bailey who came out of the bullpen for last call. Joel Hanrahan did, even though he ostensibly had lost his closing job to Bailey. Postgame inquiries will be made.
Hanrahan gave up a leadoff single to Rasmus, but induced Emilio Bonifacio to pop out and ended the game on a double-play grounder by Munenori Kawasaki to Drew, the third DP of the night started by the Sox shortstop. The save was Hanrahan’s fourth of the season.
The Sox are now 20-8 and headed for Texas and a three-game set against the Rangers, who began the day tied with the Yankees for second-best record in the league.