The Red Sox failed to complete their sweep of the Blue Jays Wednesday night because for some reason Junichi Tazawa was asked to pitch against the one team he absolutely cannot get out.
For the first time in this series, it was the Blue Jays and not the Red Sox who were spotted an early lead. On just his ninth pitch of the game, Joe Kelly gave Jose Bautista a changeup in exactly the wrong part of the strike zone. Bautista cleared the fence in center field, and just like that it was 1-0 Toronto in the first.
It was an inauspicious start to what would actually prove to be a pretty good night on the whole for Kelly. While the St. Louis import wasn't exactly pounding the strike zone, he was generally pitching to exactly the spots you'd want, hitting corners rather than the heart of the plate. His curveball proved a weapon all night long, and his fastball topped out around 98 miles per hour. It was the sort of performance that serves as a reminder to the success Kelly has had in the past, and what the Red Sox hope he will be in the future.
The lineup, meanwhile, was up to the task of covering for his early mistake, if just barely. Marcus Stroman was his usual excellent self against the Red Sox, who have never really been able to figure out the young righty. But a defensive gaffe from Juan Francisco gave them a small opening in the sixth inning, and they took advantage of it, with three straight singles from Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz serving to plate two runs and give Boston the 2-1 lead.
Joe Kelly's night would ultimately end after a leadoff double in the seventh from Edwin Encarnacion. It was another early exit for Kelly in terms of pitch count, perhaps the result of John Farrell attempting to establish some momentum for the young pitcher. All well and good...so long as he can get those last innings from the bullpen.
Well, Tommy Layne didn't get the job done, thanks in part to David Ross failing to reel in a pop-up foul. His one at bat of the night ended in a Dioner Navarro single. Still, that's no excuse for the mistake that came next: calling on Junichi Tazawa. Against every other team in the game, Tazawa has a career ERA under 3.00, and has proven time and again a reliable late-inning option for the Red Sox. Against the Blue Jays, however, he's a disaster waiting to happen. Or, well, not waiting. With just his third pitch of the night, Tazawa saw Danny Valencia dig a fastball out of the inside part of the plate and send it into the Toronto bullpen for a three-run homer. A familiar sight in this particular ballpark for Tazawa and the Red Sox, who saw their 2-1 lead turned into a 4-2 deficit.
The Jays tacked on a fifth run before the inning was over, but it wasn't all that necessary. The Red Sox had already had their one rally against Stroman, who left the game with just four outs to go. With only a Dustin Pedroia single to show for their last two innings, the Sox fell 5-2, much as everyone expected the second Tazawa was asked to pitch north of the border.