Ryan Dempster waited a beat after Jose Bautista got wood on his first-pitch fastball in the third inning before he turned around to see just how far it was going.
He jerked his head around, shot his eyes high toward the Green Monster, and looked as if an avalanche was coming.
The Blue Jays tagged him for three of their five home runs Sunday, piling it on the Red Sox in a 12-4 win at Fenway Park.
The solo shot to Bautista was something Dempster could shrug off.
“Those aren’t what beat you,” he said.
But in all he gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings all the while searching for the form that had made him so reliable over his first six starts.
His slider was playing hooky on him.
“I just didn’t have the slider I normally have today,” he said.
Adam Lind, Emilio Bonifacio, and Munenori Kawasaki all had their way with it in the second inning. Lind stroked a leadoff single, then after Dempster struck out Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus, Bonifacio ripped a double, sending Lind to third.
On a full count, Kawasaki roped a single to right that put the Jays ahead, 2-0.
It was hard to envision much more trouble coming at that point, though, because Dempster had been so crafty all season whenever he found himself in tight spots. Besides his 2.93 ERA coming in, he had been nearly unhittable with men on (.111 batting average against) and with runners in scoring position (.156).
His arm felt fine. So did his body, he said. But his pitches didn’t. He gave up a two-run home run to Bonifacio in the fourth and a solo shot to Edwin Encarnacion in the fifth before calling it an afternoon.
“I was missing up in the zone more than I normally do,” Dempster said. “For whatever reason, I couldn’t really pinpoint it. I just tried to get the ball back downhill and be consistent, be good for a few hitters and then get the ball low. I just tried to work hard, I just wasn’t good enough today, wasn’t crisp.”
Still, with four hitters combining for five homers off three Sox pitchers, the Jays were equal opportunists, taking two of three games from a Sox team struggling to take advantage of scoring chances.
With David Ortiz taking a scheduled offday, the Sox went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. They also left eight runners on, continuing a recent trend.
The Sox have lost eight of their last 10 games. Since taking two of three from the Jays in Toronto earlier this month, Boston has lost three straight series.
“I think we’ve got a number of guys dealing with some frustration right now,” manager John Farrell said. “There’s no question about it. The key for us is to maintain our preparation and our work routine. Those are the two things we can control. We can’t direct the ball after it’s hit. And I know with the attitude of this group, it’s a resilient one and we’re getting tested right now, there’s no doubt about it.”
Blue Jays spot starter Chad Jenkins gave up two runs over five innings.
The Sox’ offense revolved around Dustin Pedroia (2 for 5 with a run scored) and Mike Napoli (3 for 4 with a home run).
Meanwhile, the Jays used 12 hits to put up their highest run total of the season. Bautista (2 for 4, three RBIs) shot a pair of home runs over the Green Monster, giving him nine for the season. The homers gave Bautista 14 in his career at Fenway, but it was his first multihomer game at the Fens.
The third-inning blast ricocheted off the fence at the back of the Monster and back onto the field to give the Jays a 3-0 lead. His two-run homer off Clayton Mortensen in the sixth landed in the first row of the Monster seats and capped a four-run inning that blew the game wide open.
“It was a tough day, obviously,” Farrell said. “When they put 12 runs on the board it hasn’t been a real good day on the mound.”
Buried by a barrage of long balls, it was the kind of day Dempster will quickly wipe from his memory.
“You’re going to have days like that,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “He’s been pitching great, so we’re just going to turn it over to the next one.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.