BOSTON — Different game, similar first inning for Josh Beckett.
The Red Sox starter has been plagued most of the season by rocky first innings and it wasn’t any different in Boston’s 5-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
He struck out the first batter, Anthony Gose, on a 93 mph fastball. Then Colby Rasmus tripled off the base of the wall in right field and scored when he beat third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ throw on Edwin Encarnacion’s grounder by slipping his hand ahead of catcher Kelly Shoppach’s tag.
“I can’t control that,” Beckett said. “Will made an aggressive play.”
J.P. Arencibia added an RBI single, making it 2-0. Beckett’s ERA in the first inning of games this season climbed to 10.69 and is 3.38 combined in all others.
“Josh is a fighter. He’s going to go out there and give us everything he’s got every time,” Middlebrooks said.
In the second, Rasmus made it 4-0 with a two-run double into the gap in left-center. Beckett retired seven straight before the Blue Jays tacked on a run in the fifth on Adam Lind’s RBI single. A spattering of boos rained down on Beckett. Encarnacion reached second after Middlebrooks threw his infield hit into Boston’s dugout for an error before Lind’s hit.
“I thought he had good stuff all night. He got a ground ball to third and we didn’t get an out on it,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “He made a couple of bad pitches in the first couple of innings and they scored four runs. But, he had pretty good stuff tonight.”
Beckett (5-8) gave up five runs — four earned — and seven hits, striking out seven and walking three.
Aaron Laffey pitched seven shutout innings for the Blue Jays. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Toronto, and was just its sixth in its last 15 games.
Laffey (2-1) scattered eight singles and worked out of trouble in the third and seventh innings. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.
The 27-old left-hander is with the fourth team of his career. He was up with Toronto in April and May, but never appeared in a game before being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on June 11.
“He was just hitting spots and keeping the ball down,” Middlebrooks said. “When you keep the ball away and keep it on the black down at the knees, it’s hard to do much with it.”
Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen each pitched one inning for the Blue Jays.
Unlike Thursday, when Boston was held scoreless until pulling out a win in the ninth, there wasn’t much drama as the Red Sox scored their only run on Mike Aviles’ fielder’s choice grounder with one out in the ninth.
Laffey had runners on first and second in the third, but got the next two hitters to fly out. In the seventh, the Red Sox had the first two batters reach with singles.
Rasmus drove in two runs and Lind added two hits and an RBI for the Blue Jays.
NOTES: The Blue Jays recalled OF Travis Snider from Triple-A Las Vegas before the game and optioned RHP David Carpenter, acquired in the 10-player trade with Houston earlier Friday, to Triple-A. “For the time being he’ll get most of the reps in left,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Snider. … Valentine had a nice pregame line when asked if there was any concern of injuries in walkoff celebrations after the Red Sox beat Chicago in their final at-bat Thursday night. “The more practice you have at celebrations, the better you get at it,” he said. … Red Sox RHP Andrew Bailey, who has not pitched this season as he recovers from right thumb surgery, threw off a mound Friday. Valentine said he may pitch a short batting practice in Texas on Wednesday. … Farrell said Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ, acquired from Houston in the trade Friday, should be with the team Saturday.
TIGERS 4, WHITE SOX 2: Justin Verlander shut down the White Sox after the third inning, and the Detroit Tigers backed their ace with timely hitting in a 4-2 victory over Chicago on Friday night in the opener of a big three-game series.
Detroit inched closer to the top of the AL Central. The Tigers trail the first-place White Sox by a half-game. Detroit was six back after a loss to the Chicago Cubs on June 12.
Verlander (11-5) allowed four hits in eight innings, including a two-run homer in the third by Alejandro De Aza. He struck out six and walked two. Jose Valverde finished for his 18th save in 22 chances.
Jake Peavy (7-7) struck out the first five batters he faced and seven overall, but Detroit scored three runs in the third.
Peavy went seven innings, allowing four runs and eight hits — five during Detroit’s big third inning. Jhonny Peralta led off with a double but had to stay at second on Ramon Santiago’s single because the ball was nearly caught on the fly by right fielder Alex Rios.
Peavy almost worked out of the jam when Austin Jackson hit into a double play, but Quintin Berry was hit by a pitch, and Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder followed with consecutive RBI singles.
Delmon Young’s run-scoring double put the Tigers ahead 3-2.
Verlander cruised after that, allowing only one hit over his final five innings. Jackson hit an RBI single with two outs in the seventh for another Detroit run.
Verlander struck out Alexei Ramirez to start the eighth, then broke Gordon Beckham’s bat with a 100-mph fastball. Beckham was left holding the sawed-off handle after a foul ball. He popped out on the next pitch.
After De Aza grounded out to first for the third out, Verlander — who had covered first on the play — walked slowly back to the dugout while the sellout crowd gave him a standing ovation. He threw 121 pitches.
Verlander has pitched at least six innings in each of his last 62 regular-season starts.
Chicago’s Kevin Youkilis came back after missing Thursday night’s loss at Boston with a tight left hamstring. He struck out three times against Verlander and flied out against Valverde.
Valverde, who has been erratic this year, managed a 1-2-3 ninth, capped by Berry’s diving catch in left field.
NOTES: Chris Sale (11-2) takes the mound for the White Sox on Saturday against Detroit’s Rick Porcello (6-5). … Chicago manager Robin Ventura said he hopes RHP Gavin Floyd (right elbow tendinitis) will be able to pitch Monday, but he wants to see how the pitcher feels Saturday. … The White Sox are 13-13 against the Tigers in games started by Verlander, but 1-11 in the last 12.