TORONTO - In the judgment of Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Daniel Bard pitched well enough to beat the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night in his first major league start.
But Bard took the loss as the Sox were beaten, 7-3, and Valentine held himself at least partly responsible.
Bard walked off the mound in the sixth inning with the Red Sox trailing the Jays by two runs. With runners on first and third, Valentine called in rookie lefthander Justin Thomas to face the lefthanded-hitting Eric Thames.
Thomas walked Thames to load the bases. Valentine had righthander Matt Albers warmed up but let Thomas stay in the game. J.P. Arencibia dropped a two-run single into center and Colby Rasmus followed with a sacrifice fly as Toronto took a 6-1 lead.
“Just a dumb move,’’ Valentine said, smacking his hand on his desk.
Albers throws a sinking fastball that could have induced a double play. But Valentine was hoping Thomas would keep his changeup down and get a grounder.
Instead Thomas left a pitch up and Arencibia added to Toronto’s lead.
“I don’t like being dumb. I like doing what I’m supposed to do,’’ Valentine said.
Bard was equally frustrated. Unlike spring training, when he often struggled with his command, he had the ability to spot his fastball and throw a slider for a strike whenever he wanted. Of the eight hits he allowed, five were on two-strike pitches.
Two of the hits were infield singles. Four others were ground balls.
“Let’s say half of those get fielded, which is a probably a normal night, if we catch three or four of those and get outs on them, that’s probably three runs and about 30 pitches and I’m pitching into the seventh and giving up two runs,’’ Bard said.
The Blue Jays swung and missed at 18 of Bard’s pitches. Only Josh Beckett topped that last season, getting 20 in a start against the Orioles.
Not bad for a pitcher who last started in 2007 in the Single A California League.
“I honestly felt like I pitched pretty well,’’ said Bard, who threw 65 of 96 pitches for strikes.
The box score will tell a different story, as Bard was charged with five runs.
The Red Sox, 4-2 winners Monday night, haven’t won consecutive games since sweeping a doubleheader from Oakland last Aug. 27. They fell to 1-4.
For now, the Sox will try to win the series with Jon Lester pitching Wednesday afternoon against Ricky Romero.
Bard also suffered from a lack of support as four Toronto pitchers held the Sox to nine hits. The Sox were 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
Kyle Drabek was dropped from the Toronto rotation and sent to the minors last June after giving up eight runs in four innings against the Red Sox. He did not return until September.
Drabek faced the Sox twice last season and was hit hard, allowing 12 runs on 15 hits and seven walks over nine innings. Five of the hits were home runs.
But the 24-year-old Drabek allowed one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings Tuesday.
“He was a different guy this time,’’ said David Ortiz, who homered twice off Drabek last season and was hitless against him Tuesday.
Drabek’s defining moment came in the second inning. Kevin Youkilis had his first hit of the season, a double to right field with one out. Drabek then walked Ryan Sweeney on five pitches. When Cody Ross got ahead 3 and 0, it seemed the Sox were readying for another knockout punch.
But Drabek came back to strike out Ross, then struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia looking at a 94-m.p.h. fastball.
Trailing, 3-0, the Sox finally broke through in the sixth.
Jacoby Ellsbury drew a leadoff walk and went to third when Dustin Pedroia (3 for 5) bounced a double off the wall in left-center. Adrian Gonzalez delivered a sacrifice fly to right field. Pedroia also tagged up and went to third. The throw from Jose Bautista beat him but rolled away from Brett Lawrie.
Pedroia jammed his right shoulder on the slide but stayed in the game. He had ice on his shoulder after the game along with a pain-relieving patch but said he was fine.
Ortiz walked, and Blue Jays manager John Farrell and went to righthander Jason Frasor. He got Youkilis to ground into a double play to end the inning.
The Sox scored two runs off Casey Janssen in the ninth inning on a double by Gonzalez. But the rally ended when Ortiz struck out.
Valentine, who prides himself on being prepared, was annoyed afterward. So was Bard.
“Ahhh,’’ Valentine said as reporters left his office. “That was a bad night.’’
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.