The Toronto Blue Jays may have significant injuries to their pitching staff, but that might not matter so much if they can keep receiving gems from their rookies.
On Saturday it was Marc Rzepczynski's turn to shine. One year removed from single-A ball, Rzepczynski, 23, held the high-powered Boston offence to only one run over six innings of work as the Jays defeated the Red Sox 6-2 on Saturday at the Rogers Centre.
The performance lowered the rookie's earned-run average to 2.50. He struck out four Red Sox batters on the way to the win, in his third start at the major-league level.
"I worked my butt off," Rzepczynski said. "That's as hard as I've hard to work so far up here. They took good pitches, they hit good pitches. It was definitely a battle today."
Jays' manager Cito Gaston says he's been impressed with the rookie's maturity.
"He just looks like he belongs here," Gaston said. "He handles himself that way, and the fact that he doesn't get riled out there at all. He seems to be able to deal with pressure."
Rzepczynski (1-1) has only allowed five runs in 18 innings of work against Boston, Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
He had some help from his friends, too.
Penny tagged for eight hits
Toronto's bats awakened from their slumber, at least for one game, and tagged Boston starter Brad Penny (6-4) for six runs on eight hits over five innings.
"I thought he left some pitches up, especially breaking balls," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It just seemed like every time he left an off-speed pitch up, they made him pay for it."
The big outburst came in the fourth inning after Rzepczynski pitched out of a couple jams to keep the game tied 1-1.
Alex Rios got it started, continuing his hot streak against Penny with an RBI single to give Toronto its first lead. Rios is now 9-for-14 all-time against the Boston right-hander.
Then Jays right-fielder Jose Bautista broke the game open, smacking a two-run double to right-centre, making the score 4-1.
"I didn't get away with anything up today," Penny said. "The pitch that killed me was the hanging curveball that [Bautista] hit with two outs."
Lind goes deep
Toronto's Adam Lind added a two-run homer in the fifth to make it 6-1. Scott Rolen also had a good day, going 2-for-3 and scoring two runs.
The Blue Jays (45-47), who dropped the opener to the Red Sox (55-35) on Friday, evened the three-game set heading into the rubber match on Sunday. The win also snapped Boston's four-game winning streak.
It was the second and third innings where Rzepczynski shined, looking like a veteran while getting out of jams to keep the game close.
Rzepczynski had Rocco Baldelli at an 0-2 count in the second inning with runners at first and second with nobody out, but the Boston right-fielder dug in and smacked an RBI double to right-centre field seven pitches later.
It gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead, and they looked poised for more with runners at second and third with nobody out.
Rookie stands firm
The Jays' rookie starter could have easily imploded, but Rzepczynski managed to strand them while retiring the next three batters, and Toronto tied the game in the bottom half of the inning.
In the third, Boston threatened to regain the lead, as Rzepczynski saw Red Sox first-baseman Kevin Youkilis parked at third with two out. But he pitched out of that tough spot too, striking out Bay to end the threat to keep the game tied.
"The nerves were going for a while," Rzepczynski said. "I knew I was getting up there in pitches. It was the first time I'd had a ground ball back at me so far. Getting that last out, it was good to feel that I got the last out."
Jesse Carlson came into the game for Rzepczynski in the seventh and gave up a home run on his first pitch to Jed Lowrie to make the score 6-2. Jeremy Accardo, Jason Frasor and Scott Downs combined to shut out Boston the rest of the way.
On Sunday, Toronto ace (for now) Roy Halladay (10-3) takes to the mound, looking for his first win in four starts. He'll face Boston's Jon Lester (8-6).