Burnett, Jays overcome peculiar finish
After starter dominates, Ryan closes it out after late balk call
BOSTON -- The Blue Jays let out a collective sigh of relief when the Red Sox's Coco Crisp lofted a pitch from closer B.J. Ryan to right field in the ninth inning on Thursday night. The ball fell harmlessly into Alex Rios' glove, bringing a welcome conclusion to a forgettable and frustrating road trip.
Watching the game from inside the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park, Blue Jays starter A.J. Burnett -- fresh off an impressive performance -- turned off the television and headed toward the tunnel to greet his teammates. On the field, Toronto's players shifted from the dugout to the diamond to shake hands after the win.
The only problem was that the game wasn't over.
"Things happen here that don't happen in a lot of parks," said Ryan, smiling after a bizarre turn of events in the final inning nearly spoiled an eventual 3-0 victory for the Blue Jays.
Second-base umpire Bruce Dreckman waved off Crisp's flyout, indicating that Ryan had balked on the play, that he hadn't come set in his delivery before firing the pitch to home plate. Red Sox outfielder Brandon Moss jogged from first base to second, while Toronto manager John Gibbons bolted toward Dreckman.
Dreckman's ruling gave Boston new life, and an angry Gibbons whipped his hat to the ground near second base in disgust before being ejected from the game. Crisp made his way back to the batter's box and Gibbons finally retreated to the clubhouse, where Burnett still lacked an explanation as to what was going on.
Burnett, who held Boston off the scoreboard for 7 2/3 strong innings en route to the win, wasn't about to ask Gibbons.
"He was a little fired up at the time," Burnett said with a grin. "I had no idea what happened. I was waiting to give high fives, and then I see Gibby up here and I'm wondering where our team is."
Gibbons was stunned by Dreckman's call.
"Come on, a balk? Come on. A balk call there?" said Gibbons, who was then asked what Dreckman offered as an explanation. "I dont remember, to be honest with you. It couldn't have been a good one, whatever it was. I mean, come on. Really?"
Once the situation died down, Crisp sent the third pitch he saw from Ryan bouncing into right field for a single, putting runners on the corners with two outs. That brought shortstop Jed Lowrie to the plate and potential pinch-hitter Jason Varitek, who delivered a game-winning single one night earlier, shifted into the on-deck circle.
"He made that call and he stuck by it," said Ryan, referring to Dreckman. "It's my job to go back out there and keep some composure and go out there and finish the inning. I wind up giving up a hit and kind of get a little bit deeper, giving them more life."
With Toronto (12-17) clinging to its 3-0 lead, Lowrie worked into a 3-2 count against Ryan, moving one pitch away from bringing Varitek to the plate with the bases loaded. That prospect died when the Blue Jays' closer froze Lowrie with a pitch for a strikeout, notching a save and sealing the win -- this time for good.
That officially clinched a win for Burnett (3-2), who stifled Boston's lineup, despite allowing at least one baserunner in each of the first seven innings. The right-hander finished with five strikeouts and five walks, but he managed to escape each and every one of his jams unscathed against the Red Sox (17-13).
|"So, we can feel good leaving here. Hopefully, it's the start of something. It's never easy to win here and, on top of what we've been going through, it makes it that much nicer."|
|-- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons|
Burnett's win fell in line with Toronto's dominant pitching of late. Over their past six games, the Blue Jays' starters have combined to post a 1.60 ERA, though a lack of run support only netted two victories over that span. On Thursday, though, Burnett didn't require much help.
"We came out and we hit the ball, and we scored some runs," Burnett said. "I figured the best way to get back on track was to go out there as long as I could to keep my team in it and try to get us out of here with a 'W' going home."
Rios led Toronto's offense with a trio of hits, including a solo home run off Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the seventh inning. In light of Burnett's outing, that lone shot was all that was needed to help the Jays avoid being swept in the three-game series against the Red Sox, though Toronto finished 2-7 on its nine-game road trip.
The way things have been going for the Blue Jays, the unexpected call by Dreckman in the ninth inning was almost fitting. It appeared to be yet another example of something going wrong for Toronto.
"It's been a brutal trip," Gibbons said. "So, we can feel good leaving here. Hopefully, it's the start of something. It's never easy to win here and, on top of what we've been going through, it makes it that much nicer."
Even if they had to win this one twice.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.