The Red Sox put a bad team on the field, and they produced a bad result in a stunning reinforcement of cause and effect Sunday afternoon.
The 7-1 final score is deceptive in some ways, but not in others. Up until the seventh, this was a close game. Even into the eighth the score looked respectable. But at the same time, even when it was 2-1 after the third this did not feel like a game the Red Sox were going to win. With John Farrell putting together a spring training lineup for an April 27 game, the hope essentially lay in R.A. Dickey being terrible and Jon Lester being lockdown.
Neither of those things happened. Far from being terrible, R.A. Dickey mowed through the Red Sox like it was nothing. The fact that they got this game in in just two-and-a-half hours is a testament to just how little effort Dickey had to expend. The knuckleball is never easy when it's moving, but the Sox were just completely incapable of holding off on them even as they floated in high and/or away. The only run they scored came on a pair of ground balls and a bloop--about what you might expect given the lineup.
As for Jon Lester, he really wasn't bad, he was just inconsistent. He wasn't hugely accurate, but when he was missing he was mostly missing low and away, and with the ever-aggressive Jays swinging at will, that led to plenty of whiffs. The problem was that said aggression also led to some healthy contact when the ball was in the zone. Brett Lawrie took Lester deep in the second after the Red Sox had taken the 1-0 lead, and a sharp ground ball double from Melky Cabrera made it 2-1 in the third.
Lester could have ended the day with a decent six-inning two-run outing, but he came out to pitch the seventh clearly out of gas, and the Jays managed to put together a quick two-run rally powered by a pair of doubles. The three remaining runs were the result of Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, and a thoroughly sloppy Red Sox defense going full-on implosion in the eighth.
This marks the sixth time since the Red Sox fell to 2-3 that they've had a chance to improve to .500 and failed. That psychologically significant milestone remains ever elusive, and playing the B-team behind Jon Lester is certainly not going to make it any easier to reach. There are many harsh words to use to sum up this game, but I'll spare you that particular list. Suffice it to say it's a thoroughly disappointing day from a club that seems to desperately want to avoid gaining any sort of momentum.