Second baseman Kelly Johnson ranged far to his left to deftly snag a ground ball off the carpet and throw out Jacoby Ellsbury, the speedy Boston Red Sox outfielder, at first.
Yunel Escobar went deep in the hole at shortstop to pick a grounder struck by Dustin Pedroia, set his feet and fire a laser over to first base for the second out.
And the gem of this defensive trifecta that dazzled the gathering of 25,285 at Rogers Centre during the sixth inning on Wednesday afternoon was yet to come.
Adrian Gonzalez, the dangerous Boston hitter, drove the ball into shallow right-centre field where Jose Bautista made a superb sliding grab to once again silence the Red Sox bats.
With the way Ricky Romero was dealing from the mound, it could have been construed as cruel and unusual punishment the Toronto Blue Jays were inflicting on the Red Sox.
Not that that mattered to the Blue Jays (4-2), whose only concern was they came out on the right end of a 3-1 decision over Boston (1-5) in a game featuring two of the sport’s top left-handers.
“Just an outstanding pitched game on both sides,” raved Toronto manager John Farrell, whose team won its second consecutive series to start the 2012 season. “Ricky and Lester hooked up in a classic duel.”
While Boston starter Jon Lester (0-1) was good in going the distance, Romero (1-0) was even better. Both hurlers only allowed three hits apiece, but Romero was zoned in.
After a single by Ellsbury that drove in Boston’s lone run in the third inning, Romero jacked his intensity up and retired the next 17 consecutive batters.
Only in the ninth inning did he stumble, walking the first two batters, who then each moved up a base on a long fly out by Gonzalez.
That’s when Farrell called upon closer Sergio Santos, the goat from last Monday’s home opener where he coughed up three runs in the ninth inning that allowed the Red Sox to escape with a 4-2 win.
Santos was jeered off the field that night, and if he needed any reminder about the crooked mindset of Toronto sports fans these days, it was provided earlier Wednesday.
When a shot of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, who was attending the baseball game, was flashed up on the video scoreboard, it elicited a chorus of boos from the jaded fans.
“Rough, huh,” noted Santos, who observed the moment from the bullpen.
Not wanting to risk that sort of alienation, Santos went out and did the job he was brought to Toronto to do. Utilizing a wicked slider to strike out Kevin Youkilis, Santos then got David Ortiz to ground out to second base to earn his first save of the year.
“I know they’re passionate, obviously, reading all the stuff about the Leafs and not making the playoffs,” Santos said. “So they’re passionate about their sports, which is good. It’s all you can ask for.”
After falling behind 1-0 in the third, the Blue Jays responded in their half of the inning with two runs of their own. The key blow: a run-scoring triple by Rajai Davis, who got the start in centre because he entered the game with a solid career average of .291 against lefties.
Toronto tagged on an insurance marker in the eighth, after Davis walked and then made a beeline to second base on a pickoff attempt by Lester, sliding in safely after Gonzalez made a poor throw in the dirt.
Davis would later score on a single by Escobar.
But the story of the Blue Jays season continues to be outstanding defence. Another example: Third baseman Brett Lawrie diving to his left to snag a line-drive blast off the bat of Cody Ross in the fifth.
“It’s amazing,” Santos said. “It just gives you confidence to throw strikes, to go out there knowing that you got guys behind you that can make plays. It takes a lot off [the pitchers’]shoulders.”Report Typo/Error
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