TORONTO -- Dissect it any which way.
Pitching? Even their most effective starter to date, Curt Schilling, was unable to spare the pitching-rich Red Sox the ignominy last night of allowing an opponent to score in the first inning for the ninth time in their last 11 games. Nor could Schilling avenge his worst defeat in a Sox uniform -- a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays April 22 -- as he lasted only five innings in his shortest start of the season.
"Teams have been scoring on us early a lot," manager Terry Francona said. "Then if you make a mistake, it becomes more glaring."
Defense? It was glaringly subpar as the Sox committed two more costly errors, their 32d and 33d of the season, to enable a crippling five-run Toronto rally in the sixth inning. Notable among their other gaffes, they also misplayed a potential inning-ending foul pop in the seventh to clear the way for two more runs. Only the Tigers (35) entered the night with more errors than the Sox, who lagged far behind the league-leading Mariners (13) and even the Devil Rays (15).
"We've got to pitch more consistently and we've got to play better defense, and if we don't do those two things, we're going to have problems," Schilling said. "I've never been on a championship-caliber club that wasn't a very good defensive team and didn't pitch consistently."
Hitting? OK, the Sox struck for four runs in the seventh inning trying to make up for the defensive miscues and erase an 8-2 deficit. They banged out 13 hits, the eighth time in their last 10 games they have collected at least 10 hits.
But the outcome? An ugly 12-6 loss before 20,876 at SkyDome that dropped the Sox out of first place in the American League East for the first time in 20 days, yielding to the Yankees. Just when it seemed Francona's crew had recovered from its 0-5 start in May, the Sox sagged to 5-9 in the month.
It was no time for puffery.
"We got our butts kicked," catcher Jason Varitek said. "We got cleaned."
Schilling, who surrendered three runs on eight hits and a pair of walks, fell to 4-3 with a 3.04 ERA partly because the Sox' defense faltered after he departed. Lenny DiNardo, the first Sox reliever, started the rash of misplays with a throwing error in the sixth before Johnny Damon contributed to the calamity by letting a potential inning-ending line drive by Josh Phelps clang off his glove for the final two runs of the five-run eyesore.
"We're tired, and when you get tired, you start making mental mistakes and a few more errors come into play," Damon said, noting that the Sox are in the midst of going three weeks between days off, the longest permitted under the collective bargaining agreement. The stretch, which included a couple of grueling doubleheaders and long, late-night flights, ends with a day off Monday.
"The day off is the biggest thing we need," Damon said. "Our schedule has been awful, and ever since our schedule has been awful, we've been playing really bad."
As for his error, Damon said the ball suddenly changed direction.
"I had an easy bead on it and at the last second it started knuckling on me," he said. "I saw the ball make a quick left turn and [veer] down. It's unfortunate. Instead of coming back to the dugout with a 6-2 deficit, we came back with an 8-2 deficit. Who knows what we might have been able to do if we kept getting the runs. It was a bad situation."
Then it got worse. Just when the Sox appeared poised to escape the seventh inning unscathed, Frank Catalanotto's foul pop dropped between third baseman Mark Bellhorn and shortstop Pokey Reese. Catalanotto seized the second chance and promptly doubled home two runs.
"We gave them a lot of extra opportunities," Francona said. "Some weren't errors. We had a lot of chances where we couldn't make a play or couldn't finish a play and it really did hurt us."
He acknowledged the Sox may not be well suited for a fast turf like SkyDome's.
"We get on the turf and we have to play very clean because we're not that quick in all areas," Francona said. "We know that. I mean, guys were laying over the turf."
For his part, Schilling was mostly burned at himself, even though he found ways to extricate himself from perilous jams while surrendering only single runs in the first, third, and fifth innings. He indicated his right ankle has been bothering him but has not affected his pitching. He seemed most perturbed about the way he pitched Orlando Hudson, who paced the Jays by going 4 for 4 with a walk and scoring five runs, which matched a franchise record. Catalanotto also had four hits.
"When you have guys get three or four hits in a game, you've got to make adjustments," Schilling said. "I left three balls in the middle of the plate to Hudson and he hammered all three. I just struggled tonight."
The Sox were led at the plate by David Ortiz, who homered and singled to knock in two runs. Damon drove in two runs with a pair of singles, and Bellhorn and Manny Ramirez each singled home a run. But they were unable to compensate for the team's shortcomings on the mound and in the field.
"When you're playing as many good teams as we have to play and you don't execute fundamental baseball," Schilling said, "you're not going to win more than you lose."