The bunt didn’t necessarily seem like anything special to Brock Holt when it dribbled off Jose Reyes’s bat up the infield grass and toward the mound.
It certainly didn’t seem like anything that would snowball into an inning of ugliness.
The Blue Jays were trying to put some padding on a two-run lead in the fifth inning and the play just seemed like an ordinary means of getting Anthony Gose into scoring position.
“It wasn’t the best bunt,” Holt said. “He got it down. He did his job.”
Then, the Red Sox did the rest of the work.
Brandon Workman hopped off the mound, grabbed the slow roller with both hands, and fired to Holt at first.
Holt, who had played seven of the nine spots on the diamond this season, was making his eighth start at first base but first since June 25.
With Workman’s throw bouncing in front of him, Holt had to stretch to try to pick it out of the dirt, but he couldn’t make the play.
While the ball hopped away from Holt, Gose scored from second to give the Jays a 3-0 lead.
“Workman got to it, I got back to the base, we just didn’t make the play,” Holt said. “They ended up getting a run there and it kind of sparked a bigger inning than it should’ve been.”
By the time the inning was done, the Sox would gift Toronto three unearned runs, more than enough cushion to coast to a 6-1 win that completed the Jays’ three-game sweep at Fenway.
Three pitches after Reyes’s bunt, Melky Cabrera shot a ground ball down to the left side of the infield that third baseman Xander Bogaerts tried to snag backhanded.
He checked his glove and looked back only to see the ball rolling into left field. Reyes moved to third on Bogaerts’s 10th error of the season at third base, and fourth this month.
It left Workman trying to clean up a mess that never should’ve been there.
After getting Jose Bautista to pop to second, Workman gave up back-to-back run-scoring singles to Dioner Navarro and Juan Francisco that put the Jays up, 5-0. The two errors gave them 65 for the season (15 shy of last season’s total). They came into the night ranked eighth in the American League in fielding percentage (.984).
“Sometimes you make errors,” Holt said. “It’s part of the game. We’d like to keep those to a minimum, keep those unearned runs off the board, obviously. But that turned into a bigger inning than it should’ve been.”
The trio of unearned runs allowed gave the Sox 44 for the season, one more than all of last year.
With Jon Lester’s fate still in question, Felix Doubront on the move to the Cubs, and time quickly ticking toward Thursday’s trade deadline, the most obvious question was just how much all the anxiety of the past few days was affecting the Red Sox on the field.
In a perfect world, manager John Farrell figured his players would be able to tune it all out. Keeping distractions at bay was the signature of last year’s team, which this time a year ago was sitting on 65 wins and a half-game lead in the AL East and buying at the deadline instead of selling.
“I think guys in this locker room are good at pushing things aside,” Holt said. “The fact of the matter is we’re just not going out and performing. So when we don’t do that, and you’re playing against good teams, you’re more than likely going to get beat.”
But it was clear long before the game started how fragile things were.
Workman took Lester’s turn in the rotation with trade rumors swirling around the Red Sox ace.
“They called and told me [Tuesday] night,” Workman said. “I heard it might happen with all the stuff, all the rumors going around. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”
He gave up just two earned runs over five innings in his first start for Boston since July 8, but he was undone by not just his own throwing error, but four walks.
The Jays didn’t hesitate to punish Workman for walking Reyes and Cabrera to start the game. After Workman struck out Bautista swinging, Navarro tagged him for RBI single and Francisco’s run-scoring fielder’s choice put the Jays ahead, 2-0.
“First inning I wasn’t getting ahead of anybody,” said Workman, who threw first-pitch strikes to just 13 of 25 hitters. “Put the first two guys on and both ended up scoring. It was definitely a matter all game of fighting command.”
He took the mound with the challenge not only of cooling a Jays lineup that has now won five straight games, but pitching around the awkwardness of all the trade deadline speculation.
“Thought I did a good job not worrying about that, all the other outside things,” Workman said. “Kept my mind on throwing. It wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be.
“It’s definitely different. I guess it could be a lot more different in the next couple of days. Lot of faces that were with us last year are already gone and more I guess could go. It’s definitely a different atmosphere.”
The errors only compounded Boston’s season-long inconsistency at the plate. The Sox went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base. They pushed across their only run when Bogaerts led off the fifth with a double to right field and Christian Vazquez delivered him with a ground-rule double.
With Jays starter Mark Buehrle bottling up the Sox, giving up just one run in 6⅔ innings, the Sox lost for the eighth time in nine games (six times to the Jays). By the late innings, Fenway fans attuned as much to the murmurs as the players in the Red Sox clubhouse, showed their appreciation for Lester by chanting his name.
Even though no deal had been made at that point, the message was received in the Sox dugout.
“We were well aware of it, heard it, wouldn’t expect anything less,” Farrell said. “This is a fan base that is very much in tune with what we’re doing, good and bad, and I think it’s a clear sign of support for Jon.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.