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ON BASEBALL

At Fenway, electricity was no longer current

It's not pro football, where every Sunday means something and every game could have ramifications on winning a division or making the playoffs. There's no crying in baseball, but it's OK to admit that you suffered a letdown after wiping the floor with the New York Yankees over the previous three games.

It's OK to admit that your intensity level just wasn't the same.

How could it be?

The emotion of those games is through the roof for players, management, manager, coaches, you name it. They build themselves into a frenzy and the release is three wins. Euphoria. After you beat the Yankees in April, you're telling your buddy you're going to win it all. You feel great.

There were even high-fives up in the owner's box after the Sox wiped out the Yankees. After the Sox hit four consecutive homers in Sunday night's 7-6 win, there was awe and celebration. Why not? This stuff doesn't happen every day.

Got to kick the Yankees while they're down, because you might not have that chance again. The Red Sox did that in three highly emotional games. You can't pull that emotion out of your back pocket every day.

You're human.

Then comes the hangover.

Toronto came to town last night, and all of a sudden the electric atmosphere around the ballpark was flickering. The spark of the previous three games was gone. Doesn't mean it won't come back tonight or in Baltimore tomorrow night or in New York over the weekend. But you could feel it as early as 3:30 p.m., when the clubhouse opened to the media. Something was missing.

Apparently, some players were being randomly drug-tested on this day, which is not unusual in major league clubhouses. David Ortiz did a book signing at the South Shore Plaza. There were still questions floating around about the Yankee conquest. It was a new day, but there hadn't really been enough time to get the euphoria out of your head.

The Sox knew the Blue Jays were on a five-game losing streak and a win meant everything to them and probably not as much to Boston. Even with a loss, the Sox are 12-6.

"It was a lethargic day," said a very frank Doug Mirabelli, who went 2 for 3. "It didn't feel like we had the energy we had against New York. It didn't seem like we had anything going. Sometimes you don't have it every single day. A little blah today."

That was it in a nutshell.

He was the only guy who seemed to size up the day precisely. "Blah" is a great word to describe it. Mirabelli even acknowledged that his errant throw to third base trying to catch Vernon Wells stealing set "the wrong tone" for the game.

But Mirabelli's teammates wouldn't go where he did.

"No, I don't think so," said Tim Wakefield when asked about a letdown. "We are all professionals in there and we know that we are facing another good team coming into the short two-game series. I don't feel like it was an emotional letdown for us."

Dustin Pedroia, who contributed a two-run double and continued his decent play of late, said, "You play 162 games. You just can't get up for three of them."

Mike Timlin, who surrendered a two-run homer to Aaron Hill and snared a vicious line drive hit right back at him by Gregg Zaun, said letdown talk was an excuse. "We just got beat," he said.

Manager Terry Francona fought the letdown questions as if he were Joe Frazier fighting Muhammad Ali. Letdown? Are you kidding? Not us. He said the loss wasn't because of a lack of emotion but the fact that the offense just didn't deliver, going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

It wasn't that the team stopped trying or that there was no emotion. Look at Kevin Youkilis, who bumped into rails and ran hard down the first base line and came down awkwardly. The Red Sox played hard; there just wasn't that little jet on their backs. Nor were the Blue Jays wearing pinstripes to provide the incentive.

It wasn't that Toronto starter Tomo Ohka was overpowering, but he was efficient, and for five-plus innings, he allowed three runs and kept the Red Sox at bay. He also pitched pretty well against them last week.

It wasn't that Wakefield was awful, because he was actually pretty good. He allowed a key two-run homer to Frank Thomas in the sixth after he walked Wells. But four runs over six innings -- that was one of the better performances by a starter the last week when you think about it. Curt Schilling allowed five runs, Josh Beckett five (four earned), and Daisuke Matsuzaka six. But they won and Wakefield lost.

It was just a ho-hum night.

Meanwhile in Tampa Bay, the Yankees were tripping over themselves again. Alex Rodriguez hit two more homers and they still lost, 10-8. The Orioles, who swept the Blue Jays over the weekend, took it on the chin against the Oakland A's. Other teams didn't have "it," either.

Take a deep breath and repeat: "We suffered a letdown." It's not that hard to admit.

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