TORONTO -- The pitching line -- the report card, as it were -- will tell one story about Daniel Bard's first major league start.
Reality will tell another.
Bard's results -- five innings plus two batters, eight hits allowed and five runs scored -- weren't anything special, as the pitcher himself admitted.
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"It's easy to look at the results," said Bard after the Sox were beaten by the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-3. "The results obviously stunk. I recognize that."
But the fine print told another story.
Of the eight hits Bard allowed, all but one were singles. And of those seven singles, six were ground balls that got through the infield.
He managed to maintain velocity, and though he wasn't very efficient with his pitch count, felt strong enough, at 96 pitches, to throw another 25 or so.
Finally, there was this: Bard got 18 swing-and-misses on his pitches, an extraordinary high number for any pitcher, much less one starting for the first time.
"You take that 30 times a year," concluded Bobby Valentine, "and you're going to get a lot of wins out of it."
"I feel I threw the ball better tonight than I had all spring -- by far," said Bard. "My command was better. Everything. The old saying goes, 'hit 'em where they ain't.' That's what they did. I just try to focus on how I felt and how the ball was coming out of my hand, which was really good, and try to ignore the bad results."
Bard is a realist, so he knows he can't dismiss the bottom line.
But in the big picture, there was plenty with which to be satisfied.
"I thought I conserved energy really well," he said. "This was the first time I was able to take something off my fastball. I didn't need it early in the count and I could throw it 91-92, get strike one and save the harder ones for later."
And before he was lifted in the sixth after his only walk and an infield single, Bard had just begun settling in, having retired seven in a row and eight of the previous nine Jays.
Bad luck had as much to do with the outing as much as anything.
"I think they had six or seven ground ball hits," said Bard. "Let's say half of those get fielded, which is probably a normal night, that's probably a difference of three runs and 30 pitches and I'm probably pitching into the seventh, giving up two runs and it's a totally different game.
"I'm looking at it that way. I feel good about how I threw it."
It didn't help that Justin Thomas, called on to bail Bard out of a mess the way Bard had done so many times in his role as set-up man, allowed both inherited runners to score, bloating the final line.
But the bottom line?
"He pitched good enough to win," said Valentine.