The growing legend of Brett Lawrie will no doubt jump another tick or two on the old meter after the rookie belted a walk-off home run in the 11th inning that allowed the Toronto Blue Jays (70-71) to tame the Boston Red Sox (84-56) 1-0 on Monday.
As dramatic as that hit was – Lawrie’s eighth home run in 30 games since getting elevated from the minors – Toronto manager John Farrell said there were other key pieces to the puzzle that helped the Blue Jays snuff out a three-game losing skid.
Farrell pointed to the poise displayed by another rookie, starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who stabbed a Jacoby Ellsbury come-backer in the fifth inning that ignited a compelling double play, as another big moment.
There was a superlative diving catch in centre field by Dewayne Wise in the ninth inning to rob Carl Crawford of an extra base hit.
And don’t forget the big strikeout that Toronto reliever Casey Janssen manufactured against the always-dangerous Kevin Youkilis in the eighth with two on and two out.
All were critical elements in a compelling game at Rogers Centre that unfolded before 27,573, according to the manager.
“But when you peel this one back and you look at the one swing in the 11th inning by Brett, you’re never out of the game if you’re tied or you’re close with him at the plate,” Farrell said admiringly.
The 21-year-old Langley, B.C., native exudes confidence and it showed again in the 11th when he crunched a 1-1 pitch from Boston reliever Dan Wheeler to left centre to win the first of a four-game set for the Blue Jays.
“In one month’s time what a splash and what a start to a big league career,” Farrell marvelled. “Not only just at the plate, his plays defensively. He has settled in at third base very well.”
As for Lawrie, he continues to display a magic touch in the one month he has been in the majors.
Along with his walk-off homer, he has already a grand slam to his credit. Of his 34 major-league hits, 19 have gone for extra bases.
“Very, very cool,” Lawrie said of his first month on the job. “Obviously something I’ll take with me forever. I’m just glad I can help the team out. Anything I can do to help these guys out in any way, shape or form, it’s what I’m out there to do.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run there, I was just trying to get on base and give everyone else in here an opportunity to score me. But I was lucky enough to get a pitch I could handle.”
INJURY FORCES BECKETT FROM GAME
Boston starter Josh Beckett’s afternoon came to an end with two out in the fourth inning after coming up lame delivering a 1-2 pitch to Lawrie. Beckett started favouring his right foot, which of course caught the attention of Boston manager Terry Francona. After a meeting at the mound Beckett was lifted in favour of Alfredo Aceves. The Red Sox later announced their closer had suffered a sprained ankle.
McGOWAN TO PEN
Along with Farrell, who had missed the previous 10 games recovering from pneumonia, the Blue Jays welcomed pitcher Dustin McGowan back into the fold. Shoulder woes have derailed the career of the 29-year-old, who last played a major-league game back on July 28, 2008. For the rest of this season Farrell said that the right-hander will work out of the bullpen, which is fine by McGowan. “Eventually I hope to be a starter again,” said McGowan, a 12-game winner for the Blue Jays in 2007. “What his physical abilities will ultimately get to this time he’s back remains to be seen,” Farrell said. “But if it’s close to what it was it’s a damn good major-league pitcher.”
LAWRIE SHINES DEFENSIVELY
The Blue Jays rookie continues to look right at home at third base. In the fifth inning, Boston base-runner Marco Scutaro stumbled between second and third base after Alvarez snagged a come-backer off the bat of Ellsbury. Henderson rushed toward the stranded base-runner and when Scutaro broke toward third he tossed the ball to Lawrie, who applied the bare-handed tag for the put-out. Lawrie did not forget about Ellsbury, who was busy steaming toward second base as the rundown was going on, and a nice throw over to Kelly Johnson completed the double play.