It took more than three years, but Dustin McGowan completed his long road back to the major leagues.
The Blue Jays right-hander returned to the mound Tuesday, pitching four innings of relief in Toronto’s 14-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
McGowan was pitching in the majors for the first time since July 8, 2008. The oft-injured pitcher had been sidelined by two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery over the past three seasons.
Coming in from the bullpen after so long away, with the crowd of 17,565 giving him a standing ovation, was an emotional moment.
”It was a little nerve-racking jogging in,” McGowan said. ”When I got there, everybody on their feet, it got to me a little bit.”
McGowan allowed three runs and five hits, walked three and struck out five. Blue Jays manager John Farrell said there was a lot to like about McGowan’s performance.
”It was just very encouraging to see the late action to his slider, the command of his changeup,” Farrell said. ”He had very good stuff.”
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he was pleased for McGowan.
”You could see the way the fans reacted to him when he came in the game,” Francona said. ”He’s been out for quite a while but he’s still got some velocity.”
A starter before his injury woes, McGowan is expected to work in relief for the time being, though that could change.
”Right now our plan for him is to come out of the bullpen but we reserve the right to change our mind if we want to insert him into the rotation at some point going forward,” Farrell said.
McGowan’s successful return was about the only thing that went right for Toronto on this night. Boston starter Jon Lester struck out 11 in seven innings to win his fourth straight decision, while Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz each matched a career-high with four hits.
”These nights it’s definitely fun to be on our side,” Lester said.
Lester (15-6) allowed just three hits, all singles, and walked one to improve to 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in five starts since losing at Minnesota on Aug. 10. He also matched a season high for strikeouts and is 4-0 in his last six starts against Toronto.
”He threw strikes, he threw his cutter with some power to it,” Francona said. ”That was good to see.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Josh Reddick homered as the Red Sox matched a season-high with 20 hits and scored at least two runs in each of the first five innings. It was the first time in franchise history Boston has achieved the feat, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau provided to the Blue Jays.
Scutaro has batted sixth just one other time this season, making the bulk of his starts in the nine hole. Moving up in the order seemed to agree with him, however. He matched a career-high with three doubles, drove in four runs and reached base five times.
”I’ve been hitting the ball good for three weeks and it seems like everything I hit is right at people or they’re making diving plays,” Scutaro said. ”It’s nice to have a day like this.”
The Red Sox finished with nine doubles and 11 extra-base hits, both season-highs.
Kyle Weiland pitched the final two innings for Boston.
Toronto lost for the fourth time in five games and 10th in the last 15.
After losing 1-0 in 11 innings in the series opener on Monday, the Red Sox jumped on Blue Jays left-hander Luis Perez (3-3) for four runs while batting around in the first inning. Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI double, Ortiz and Scutaro had back-to-back RBI singles and Carl Crawford capped it with a run-scoring double.
Gonzalez singled home a run in the second and Kevin Youkilis followed with an RBI double but was thrown out trying to advance to third.
Boston made it 8-0 in the third on Saltalamacchia’s 15-homer, a two-run drive to center. Perez left three batters later after Dustin Pedroia reached on an error by Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie.
Perez, winless in three starts, allowed a career-high eight runs and 10 hits in 2 2-3 innings. He walked two and struck out one.
Boston piled on with three more against left-hander Rommie Lewis in the fourth. Ortiz and Scutaro hit consecutive RBI doubles and, two outs later, Darnell McDonald drove in Scutaro with a single to right.
Scutaro made it 13-0 in the fifth with a two-run double off McGowan, his Toronto teammate in 2008.
”The first inning I was so pumped up I left everything up,” McGowan said.
After replacing Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth, Reddick made it 14-0 with a solo drive to right off McGowan in the eighth.
Boston infielder Nate Spears made his major league debut in the fifth, replacing Crawford. Jed Lowrie, sidelined for the past two games with a sore left shoulder, came on for Gonzalez in the seventh.
Notes: Toronto SS Yunel Escobar returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore left wrist. … Blue Jays OF Colby Rasmus (right wrist) took swings off a tee before the game. … Toronto recalled 1B David Cooper, RHP Kyle Drabek and LHP Brad Mills from Triple-A Las Vegas and purchased the contracts of RHP Chad Beck, RHP Danny Farquhar and OF Adam Loewen from Triple-A. All six are expected to arrive Wednesday. To make room on the roster, the Blue Jays outrighted RHP P.J. Walters to Triple-A and will transfer OF Rajai Davis (left hamstring) from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.