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RED SOX 9, BLUE JAYS 3

Dome remedy

Sox' ills are cured by six-run eighth

TORONTO -- Ravaged in May by every affliction, it seemed, but plague and pestilence, the Red Sox last night badly needed a happy ending. Something to soothe the ache of too many cases of the flu, too many late-night flights, too many games without Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon in the lineup, and too many losses.

They needed something as therapeutic as the events that unfolded just when their plight grew bleakest. Moments after the Sox squandered a 3-0 lead against the Blue Jays and appeared destined to tailspin toward another dispiriting loss, they struck for six runs in the eighth inning to surge to a 9-3 victory before 20,948 at SkyDome.

Snapping a two-game losing streak, the Sox improved to 6-9 in May and raised hopes they could emerge from their nagging bout of baseball ills in a better place.

"Oh, man," said manager Terry Francona, "we did need that."

Francona's barnstormers broke open the game with five hits, a walk, and a hit batsman in the eighth, first abusing reliever Kerry Ligtenberg before they roughed up Valerio De Los Santos. Brian Daubach knocked in the go-ahead run with a ground-rule double before Kevin Millar singled in a run, Cesar Crespo doubled in another, and David Ortiz doubled home two more. The Jays chipped in by committing two errors and firing a run-scoring wild pitch.

"To be able to come back after that, it's great," Daubach said. "We've been on this crazy streak where we win a few in a row, lose a few in a row. Hopefully, now we can win a few in a row."

The decisive rally was particularly sweet for the Sox since they let the 3-0 lead dissolve in the sixth inning thanks in part to misplays of their own. First, Johnny Damon lost his bearings chasing down a deep drive to center by Vernon Wells and let the ball bounce off his glove for a double. Then just when it seemed Sox starter Derek Lowe would escape the inning with a 3-2 lead, third baseman Mark Bellhorn, subbing for the injured Bill Mueller (sore right knee), threw wildly to first, allowing the tying run to score.

The error was the 15th in the last 11 games for the Sox and the 34th in 36 games.

"We definitely needed this," Damon said of the victory. "We were almost at a spot where it was like, `Here we go again.' A misplayed ball in center by me and Bellhorn makes an error, and we're like, `Oh, boy, what can we do.' "

Damon said he needs to reexamine the way he plays center field after his latest defensive adventure. The night after a line drive knuckled off his glove for an error, he said the shot by Wells also seemed to change direction.

"I'm just flabbergasted by all these close balls I've been getting," said Damon. "You go through years without being beat on balls like that, and there's been about six or seven this year that just have driven me nuts. I need to get better, whether or not I play deeper to make my job easier. I'm tired of all this."

Bellhorn's blunder contributed to Lowe failing to complete six innings for the third straight outing. Lowe yielded to Alan Embree with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth.

"I got careless," Bellhorn said. "Sometimes when you play third, you have to make sure you get your shoulder closed. I think playing second so much, you have to force yourself to do that."

In any case, the eighth-inning rally bailed him out.

"They picked me up," Bellhorn said. "That shows the character of this team to come back like that."

Lowe lost his chance to improve on his 3-3 record, though he was able to reduce his ERA from 5.01 to 4.74. The win went to Embree, who snuffed the Toronto rally in the sixth by getting Orlando Hudson to bounce out to Bellhorn.

"That was an outstanding job at a point where the game is won or lost," Francona said.

Embree also shut down the Jays in the seventh to clear the way for the winning rally.

"It was awesome," Embree said. "It's kind of rewarding because you kept the team in it at that point and they rewarded you."

Scott Williamson took over to start the eighth and blanked the Jays before Keith Foulke finished things in the ninth.

Unfortunately for Lowe, the Jays ruined his night in the sixth inning after he had held them scoreless the first five. In all, he allowed only four hits but he walked four and hit two batters to help account for Toronto's three runs (two earned). Lowe has walked 20 batters and hit four in just 38 innings this season.

"It was tough for Derek," Daubach said. "It's weird for him to be this wild because he's usually a control guy. But to come back and win probably makes him feel a little better."

Just a little.

"The walks are killing me," Lowe said. "Those and the hit batsmen pretty much did me in."

But, yes, the victory helped soothe the ache.

"You've got to look at the positives," Lowe said. "We won the game, that's the bottom line. Hopefully, that will get us going in the right direction."

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