SEATTLE -- Where have you gone, Mike Timlin?
Over the last 22 games, the 40-year-old righthanded setup man has set up disasters. He has allowed 18 earned runs in his last 21 1/3 innings, five home runs in his last 14 games, obvious signs that the wear and tear of the past few years has finally caught up with him.
Asked to protect a 3-2 Red Sox lead in the bottom of the eighth inning last night in relief of David Wells, Timlin surrendered a leadoff home run to Adrian Beltre and then the eventual winning sacrifice fly to Ben Broussard after back-to-back singles to Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson, forging another distressful evening for the Sox in a 4-3 loss at Safeco Field before 44,779.
Timlin, while not pleased with the results, was pleased with the way he threw the ball and his pitch selection.
``It was a good pitch," said Timlin of his offering to Beltre. ``It was 3-4 inches outside. I felt it was where I wanted to go or at least where it ended up I thought it was safe. I guess he was looking out there.
``I threw the ball exceptionally well. I can look at myself in the mirror and know I did exactly what I wanted and I got beat."
The Sox, meanwhile, now stand 5 1/2 games back in both the American League East (Yankees) and wild-card (Twins) standings.
The two starters -- Gil Meche and Wells -- were a wash. They each lasted seven innings, each allowed a pair of runs, and each handed their fates to their bullpens.
Wells had pitched his heart out but Yuniesky Betancourt's solo homer on a hanging curve with one out in the seventh tied the game at 2. Wells got out of the inning after allowing back-to-back singles by T.J. Bohn and Ichiro Suzuki before inducing a 4-6-3 double play.
The Sox regained the lead in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Mike Lowell off flamethrowing righthander J.J. Putz, scoring David Ortiz, who had doubled off lefthander George Sherrill. But Timlin ended any afterglow of Wells's stint in a hurry when he surrendered his sixth homer of the season.
To backtrack, the Sox may have been victims of a bad call by third base umpire Ron Kulpa in the top of the eighth. On Lowell's go-ahead hit, Manny Ramírez, who was walked intentionally before Lowell, ran to third and the throw from left fielder Ibanez was caught by third baseman Beltre, who tagged an upright Ramírez around the helmet. The ball bounced out of Beltre's glove, but Kulpa still ruled Ramírez out, feeling Beltre had held the ball long enough.
The call was argued by third base coach DeMarlo Hale and manager Terry Francona, but to no avail. play.
``[Kulpa] said [Beltre] tagged Manny while he was moving away, but that he had control of the ball," said Francona. ``I didn't agree. I was more concerned with David [Ortiz] scoring at the time."
The Sox had taken a 2-1 lead in the fifth when three straight batters reached with two outs. No. 9 hitter Gabe Kapler singled to center, Coco Crisp walked, and Mark Loretta plated Crisp with a single that Suzuki couldn't make a sliding catch on in center.
The Sox had hoped that Ramírez's return to the lineup from patellar tendinitis in his right knee would spark a power surge, but Meche handled Ramírez well in his first three at-bats, striking him out in the second inning and inducing grounders in the fourth and sixth.
Wells, looking to even his record at 3-3, did some of his finest work in the fifth when he stranded Betancourt at third with one out, striking out Bohn, and retiring Suzuki on a ground ball to shortstop. Betancourt had tripled to the right-center gap, the ball hitting the base of the wall and kicking off Crisp's foot.
Wells was making his eighth start, closing in on his first bonus of $200,000, which he receives for each start from 11-20. Because of his time spent on the disabled list, Wells won't come close to the $9 million he received last season.
Wells has said this will be his final season, but while retirement appeared to be a definite with his knee problems, he's pitched well recently. He has shown no signs of changing his mind, but in each of his last five starts, he's gone no fewer than six innings and allowed no more than four runs. In a 2-1 loss to the Yankees last Monday, Wells went 7 1/3 innings and allowed six hits and two earned runs, but the Sox' offense couldn't solve Cory Lidle.
Meche also pitched well early, yielding only Crisp's third-inning solo homer through four innings. Ibanez lined a single to center, scoring Beltre in the fourth for the tying run.
Meche, 27, will be one of the most coveted starters on the free agent market in the offseason. He is 9-8 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts this season, and is 53-44 with a 4.67 ERA for his career. He had been ineffective of late, not going more than six innings in five consecutive starts.
Meche started strong, striking out five of the first seven batters he faced. The home run had to be sweet for Crisp, who was one of the goats in Friday night's 6-0 loss.
Crisp, however, continued to display a very weak throwing arm from center field. On Ibanez's RBI single, Crisp threw quickly to the cutoff man rather than try a throw to the plate in an attempt to gun down Beltre.
A sweet home run, but there was more bitterness last night. A taste that may linger.