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BLUE JAYS 12, RED SOX 9

Eastern block

Sox go nowhere as streak ends at hands of Jays

Go figure. The Red Sox played like world beaters for five straight glory days against the A's and Mariners, the Best of the West. They restored the creaky foundation of faith beneath their anxious fandom and turned a previously unknown "Rally Karaoke Guy" into a cult hero.

Then they fell faster than a fading star last night amid an array of subpar performances against a weak sister from north of the border. In the last game-turning act of one of the uglier affairs of the season, the Scotts -- Sauerbeck and Williamson -- squandered any chance of the Sox prevailing by surrendering five runs (four earned) in the eighth inning en route to a forgettable 12-9 loss to the Blue Jays before 33,731 in the Fens.

Sauerbeck, starting the eighth amid a 7-7 deadlock, coughed up two runs in only a third of an inning before Williamson yielded three more (two earned) while retiring just a single batter.

The collapse unfolded after Grady Little's Comeback Kids stormed back from a whopping 7-1 deficit.

"It's a tough way to lose after you battle back the way we did," Little said. "It's a shame that it got away from us there in the top of the eighth inning."

The indomitable Sox offense tried to close the final gap, led by Kevin "Rally Karaoke Guy" Millar, who delivered a consolation gift for the diehards by launching an inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning, the first for the Sox since Darren Lewis hit one July 28, 1998.

"That's the first loss the Karaoke Guy brought," Millar said of the video that appeared for the fourth time on the center field scoreboard. "I think they may have played it a little bit too early in the fourth inning."

That's one theory. Whatever the case, the Sox lost a chance to gain ground on the Yankees, who were pummeled by the White Sox, 13-2. They awaited the results of the games involving their wild-card rivals -- the A's and M's -- out West.

In their one-night reversal of fortune, the Sox succumbed to an array of uncharacteristic underachievements, including:

* The futility of the Scotts in the clutch.

* Tim Wakefield's shortest start in more than three years not involving an injury, a 3 1/3-inning thrashing in which the Jays tagged him for seven runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks on the 11th anniversary of his first career shutout with the Pirates.

* Two misplays by Gabe Kapler, one in right field in the second and another in left field in the eighth, each of which contributed to unearned runs. In the second, Kapler misplayed a single by Reed Johnson, though Nomar Garciaparra was charged with a hotly disputed error (his first in 33 games) that allowed the run. Garciaparra was called for interfering with Eric Hinske rounding second base. In the eighth, Kapler's throwing error led to another unearned run.

* An error by Bill Mueller (only his second in 18 games) in the third that cleared the way for the second Toronto run.

There were other mistakes, such as Todd Walker breaking into a home run trot after he launched a ball to the warning track in right field. Walker sped up in time to reach second safely, but the play was so close that Toronto manager Carlos Tosca was tossed for protesting. Walker's lapse ultimately did no harm, unlike the others.

"It wasn't the prettiest game," Kapler said. "I'll be honest with you, I'd like to go back and start all over. I wanted a mulligan in a couple of places there."

As would the team, whose run of flawless defense and sturdy pitching ended, at least for a night.

"It's so tough to get things working on all cylinders," Walker said. "You're going to have games like this. We've been doing it the last five or six days, but tonight it just didn't work out."

The Jays more than matched Boston's muscle at the plate, and though the Jays pitched little better than the Sox, their defense helped to make the difference. Led by center fielder Vernon Wells, the Jays made a number of dazzling plays, none more sensational than Wells robbing Manny Ramirez of extra bases in the eighth with a sprinting, over-the-shoulder catch at the 420-foot marker.

The loss wasted a fine Sox debut in left field by David McCarty, who matched a career high by driving in four runs with a three-run homer and run-scoring single before he was lifted for pinch hitter Johnny Damon in the sixth.

The Sox also benefited from a solid 3 2/3 innings of relief from Jeff Suppan, who kept them within striking range after Wakefield's woes before Sauerbeck and Williamson let the game slip away.

The Scotts, acquired before the deadline to bolster the pen, also combined to blow a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss to the A's last week in the opener of the homestand.

"We have concern," Little said, "but we also have confidence they will get it going."

One thing the Sox had little concern about was their ability to rebound from defeat.

"We have a tremendous amount of heart," Kapler said. "It's just one thing about our club that is not up for discussion, the amount of will and heart and soul we have."

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