TORONTO -- Apparently all Ryan Dempster needed was a bit of home cooking to get over his slump. Well, maybe not exactly "home" cooking (his birthplace of Gibsons, British Columbia, is roughly 4,400 kilometres ...er, 2,734 miles... from Toronto), but still, there's something about being in his native Canada that seems to agree with the veteran right-hander.
After posting a 7.27 ERA over his previous five starts, Dempster delivered much better results on Tuesday during the Red Sox's 4-2 11-inning win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Dempster gave up just one run in his seven innings of work, allowing two walks and four hits while striking out four. While he didn't earn a decision for his performance, Dempster was pleased to overcome his recent struggles.
"I know I'm better than that and sometimes you hit those patches and rough spots," he said. "I was able to make an adjustment and be a little bit better tonight."
The no-decision keeps intact Dempster's unbeaten record in his home country. He is 6-0 over 10 career starts in Canada --- eight pitching against the Expos at Montreal's Olympic Stadium and two starts against the Jays at Rogers Centre.
"We don't come back here this year, right? OK, I can enjoy it then," Dempster joked. "I'm comfortable here. I've got a lot of people watching back home, so I try to put my best foot forward. Well, I always try to give my best effort anywhere, but here it's seemed to work out."
There may be something to the Canadian pride angle, given that Dempster hasn't pitched nearly as well (eight runs in 10 1/3 IP) in two starts against the Blue Jays this season at Fenway Park. Still, Boston manager John Farrell felt that Tuesday's start was an example of how Dempster's array of off-speed pitches works well at keeping this Jays lineup off-balance.
"He was crisp, he was down in the strike zone for the most part. This is a free-swinging team so he could never feel like he was out of the count, even though a couple of times he was behind," Farrell said. "He could go with a splitter or a slider to get a mishit. His style is a good matchup with this team."
Ironically, that style was also the logic behind Farrell's decision to switch pitchers before the eighth inning. Though Dempster had thrown only 88 pitches, Junichi Tazawa came in to start the eighth and promptly allowed a game-tying solo homer to J.P. Arencibia, Toronto's first batter of the inning.
"It didn't work out obviously, but I felt like with [Tazawa's] power it's a better matchup against J.P., who handles off-speed stuff very well," Farrell said. "He's been such a good reliever for us late in games. ... This is a good fastball-hitting team. If you don't locate well, they have a chance to square you up and that's what they did tonight."
Dempster said he didn't mind being taken out, and a no-decision in a Red Sox win is becoming old hat for the veteran right-hander. Though Dempster has just a 1-0 record over his last eight starts, the Red Sox are 7-1 in those games, including the last six in a row.
The other pattern emerging is that when Dempster is on the mound, some late-inning heroics are on the menu for the Sox. Shane Victorino's two-out, two-run single in the 11th on Tuesday was just par for the course, considering that Dempster's last eight starts have featured...
* Stephen Drew's three-run homer in the ninth to earn a 7-5 win over the Astros on Aug. 7;
* The legendary comeback against the Mariners, when Boston rallied from a 7-2 deficit in the ninth for an 8-7 walkoff win on Aug. 1;
* Mike Napoli's walkoff homer to beat the Yankees 8-7 on July 21;
* Another 8-7 win over the Mariners, this one in 10 innings on July 11;
* A walkoff win against the Blue Jays on June 30;
"It's been fun. I've had quite a few starts in a row and we've won that day," Dempster said. "Whether it's big comebacks, or holding on [to leads], making big plays defensively, whatever, it's been fun."