Laffey tosses timely gem in Blue Jays' win

Laffey tosses timely gem in Blue Jays' win

Laffey tosses timely gem in Blue Jays' win
BOSTON -- Aaron Laffey appears to have found a comfort zone in the hostile environment at Fenway Park.

Toronto's left-hander has made two of his five starts this season in Boston and has yet to give up a run. He's at 13 scoreless innings and counting, which is welcome news for a club that so desperately needs reliable outings from its rotation.

Laffey was back at it again on Friday night by tossing seven scoreless frames, while Colby Rasmus tripled and doubled to lead the Blue Jays to a 6-1 victory over the Red Sox.

"If you have good fastball command, you just keep rolling with it," said Laffey, who added he didn't throw a single breaking ball all night. "If you're getting the ball put on the ground and soft balls in the air, why change what's working?

"That's one thing that's big for me, if a guy hasn't beat me yet on what I've been getting him out with, I'm going to keep throwing the same thing until he beats me."

Laffey allowed eight hits but didn't walk a batter while striking out four en route to his second win of the season. He accomplished that by primarily using his sinker/cut-fastball combination and had little difficulty despite not changing speeds very frequently.

The 27-year-old said that he threw just three changeups because he didn't want to change his approach on the mound. Laffey instead consistently pounded the strike zone and kept hitters on their toes by throwing 59 of his 88 pitches for strikes.

The addition of a cutter to his repertoire wasn't made until late in Spring Training, but manager John Farrell believes that pitch plus a different mental approach on the mound has made all the difference.

"He uses a very successful recipe, and he throws a lot of strikes early in the count," Farrell said. "He puts the ball on the ground, and I think what he really has done a very good job at is understanding who he is as a pitcher, and he's refined two pitches.

"Even though that fastball can be varied with the different way he'll cut it, or sink it, he stays out of the middle of the plate, where at times we've seen his breaking ball can stay in the middle and be seen by the hitter a little bit early in the flight of the pitch."

Laffey cruised through the first two innings before encountering his first sign of trouble in the third. He allowed two of the first three batters he faced in that inning to reach base before getting Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia to fly out and end the threat.

The sixth-year hurler escaped similar jams in the fifth and seventh innings but appeared in control for most of his outing. He held the Red Sox to 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded a total of seven baserunners.

The timing of Laffey's strong start couldn't have come at a better time. Earlier in the day, the Blue Jays pulled the trigger on a 10-player deal with Houston, which included the acquisition of J.A. Happ. The 29-year-old left-hander is expected to eventually become a part of Toronto's starting rotation, but Laffey likely secured his position with the impressive start against a division rival.

Farrell was full of praise after the game, while the Boston hitters were left wondering where things went wrong.

"He was just hitting spots, keeping the ball down," Boston third baseman Will 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."

The Blue Jays scored early and often against right-hander Josh Beckett. Rasmus hit a first-inning triple to right field and then attempted to score during the following at-bat when Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground ball to third base. The throw beat Rasmus to home plate, but he managed to sneak his hand past the glove of catcher Kelly Shoppach and was ruled safe by home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook.

Toronto increased its lead to 2-0 later in the inning, when J.P. Arencibia came through with an RBI single to left field, which scored Encarnacion. Beckett escaped the inning without any further damage but found himself in more trouble during the following frame.

Yunel Escobar began the inning with a double off the Green Monster in left field. He would later score on a two-run double by Rasmus to provide Laffey with an early four-run cushion.

The strong day at the plate came at an opportune time for Rasmus, who has been one of the club's best hitters this season but entered play on Friday hitting just .176 during the month of July.

"He hit four balls hard tonight, and two of them in key spots," Farrell said. "Obviously the triple, and the two-run double was probably the biggest hit we had tonight.

"He's playing well, and when he gets into those stretches where he's free of mind, there's tremendous bat speed and really an understanding of what the opposing pitcher is trying to do to him. "

Adam Lind added an RBI single in the fifth inning to further increase Toronto's lead. Beckett remained in the game through six frames before being pulled by manager Bobby Valentine. He surrendered all five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and three walks while striking out seven.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Blue Jays and improved their overall record against Boston to an even 5-5 this season.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.