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Gagné at a loss for words

TORONTO - It looked, and felt, like so many other moments in the second half of the season. Eric Gagné sitting in front of his locker, his head slightly bowed, his uniform long gone, replaced with a "U.S.M.C." bulldog hoodie sweatshirt. The crowd gathered around as Gagné stood, threw a towel on the floor, turned, and waited. He knew the questions were coming, and as has been the case since his arrival in Boston, he had no answers.

"I don't know how to put it into words anymore," said Gagné, his voice a whisper. He was asked to repeat himself, the words not registering on most ears. He said it again.

He was asked if perhaps he was overthrowing. He mumbled an answer, the volume dipping even lower.

"Everything, I guess, I don't know," he said, almost as though he were talking to himself, trying to explain how he could have fashioned a 4-3 loss out of a potential 2-1 win. "I've got to go out there and stop thinking. I don't know. It's frustrating. I don't know what to tell you. Walk people, that's it."

It had started out so well. After those disastrous outings, all those doubts and blown games, Gagné returned from his injury timeout on Sept. 11, allowing a run in an inning in a blowout. He pitched again, a scoreless inning, last Friday and again, another scoreless inning, Sunday.

But he hadn't come into a close game, a game the Red Sox were leading, since he blew the save in the second game of an Aug. 17 doubleheader against the Angels.

"He misfired a few times throughout that," said catcher Jason Varitek. "He was still just one pitch away from being out of it. Period. We need him. We need him these last two weeks to get ourselves where we want to be."

Still, last night marked his fourth blown save since he arrived in a trade-deadline deal for David Murphy, Kason Gabbard, and Engel Beltre.

He entered the game against the Blue Jays in the eighth inning, with the Red Sox up by a run. Quickly, Gagné got two outs. Then came Frank Thomas, the man who had sent three pitches into the stands a night earlier. He was pitched with care, and drew a walk, though Varitek said a few of the calls were "borderline" by plate umpire Ed Rapuano. Aaron Hill singled, and that was followed by a walk to Matt Stairs, after Gagné had gotten Stairs down, 0-and-2.

Bases loaded. Pitching coach John Farrell took a stroll to the mound.

And then Gagné walked Gregg Zaun. It was a tie game, 2-2, but manager Terry Francona elected to stay with his reliever.

Russ Adams, pinch hitting for Hector Luna, doubled over the outstretched glove of J.D. Drew in right field, scoring two runs, the last out salvaged when Dustin Pedroia's relay from Drew arrived in time for Varitek to get the sliding Zaun with a nice tag.

"I felt good," Gagné said. "I felt good physically. Not a lot promising after that. Didn't throw strikes. You can't get people out if you don't throw strikes."

Many of his pitches - perhaps too many - were fastballs. According to Varitek, he started misfiring on his changeup, the reason for the overreliance on heat.

"There's still a little newness to work through," said Varitek. "That's not an excuse, but we've got to get in that fight a little bit with him. At least I know I do. Those things, if we can clean those up going into these last few weeks, we need him and we need him to pitch well.

"He has to know, from all of us, that we need him. You know what? People can get down, but everybody makes mistakes. People don't get hits in the right situations, make an error, do those things. But you know what? He's got good stuff, he can pitch, and he's going to help us."

Though Gagné seemed unhappy with a few of the calls, he wasn't interested in shoving blame onto Rapuano. That was his, though it came without the profanity-laced tirades that have accompanied some of his previous blowups. Last night, he just seemed tired.

"No, no," Gagné said. "I was just showing emotion on the mound. I was just frustrated with myself. That's what happened.

"All right?"

He walked a few steps. Waiting was another camera. Another interview. Another set of answers in the same wondering voice. And then he was gone.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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