TORONTO - As they packed their bags, slowly, there was more exhaustion in their movements than eagerness to get home. No one rushed around the clubhouse, flinging possessions into carry-on bags and duffles, no one ran screaming from the Toronto clubhouse. But, even if there was no strong sense of purpose in their motions, relief was the prevailing sense.
They were going home. Finally. Nineteen days, four cities, and three countries after the Red Sox left Fort Myers, Fla., the team was heading for a plane bound for Boston, happy in its destination, less than thrilled with its performance in losing three straight to the Blue Jays, a sweep that left the Red Sox winless in Canada in six straight tries. There was a "lack of energy, more than anything," in recent days, according to J.D. Drew.
Still, as players emphasized one after the other, that isn't something unique to a road trip involving Japan. That happens. They still have to win.
"There's no more excuses," Kevin Youkilis said, after the Blue Jays finished off a 7-4 win in front of 30,114 at Rogers Centre. "We've got to play the game. We've got to go out and play. Tired or not. We've got to find a way to win. There are going to be some days you're tired, there are going to be some days you're not. Now it's time to go play. If we start making excuses, it's going to be more of a negative. We've just got to stay positive.
"We're 3-4. We've got a long, long way to go. Teams that are at the tops of their divisions now, you never know where they could be at the end of the year. For us, there's 150-plus games left. Long way to go. Once we get home, all we've got to do is get our sleep, get our rest, just have fun. Play the game and have some fun."
There wasn't much fun to be had in Toronto, certainly not for Manny Delcarmen and Julio Lugo, and not for the team as a whole. Though the Jays' Frank Thomas did seem to enjoy himself.
Josh Beckett, expected author of a emotional and on-field lift for his team, started his first game out of spring training, returning from back and hip ailments that stunted his preparation. But, after three impressive innings, Beckett seemed to tire, giving up two runs in the fourth on walk and a home run to Vernon Wells. Helped by a Manny Ramírez catch up against the wall - he left cleat marks - but not by the first of three errors by Lugo, Beckett made it out of the inning.
Not so, the fifth. With two outs, Beckett loaded the bases on a single by Aaron Hill and two walks.
In came Delcarmen, who had lost a battle with Thomas Friday night, the designated hitter's double providing the winning margin. Then, it was a changeup. Yesterday, it was a fastball that was supposed to go down and away and ended up perfectly placed, middle-in, for Thomas. Grand slam, the 11th of his career.
"He's had my number these last two times," Delcarmen said. "I won't say I'm in a slump. Just a long road trip for us, and we're excited to get back home."
That capped an ugly weekend for the bullpen, though the offense and starting pitching didn't fare significantly better in the three games in Toronto. Neither did the defense, which chalked up four errors (the three by Lugo, one by Mike Lowell) for the first time since last April 24, also against the Blue Jays.
But during the series, the bullpen allowed 10 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings, including just one yesterday (though Delcarmen allowed three inherited runners to score, and an unearned run scored in the sixth off David Aardsma).
"They've played better than us here," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That's for sure. They did pretty much everything better than us, and I include myself in that group."
There was good news, as there always is. Drew, Jason Varitek, and Jacoby Ellsbury all hit solo home runs, Jonathan Papelbon struck out the side in the eighth on 12 pitches, and, most important for this team, home beckoned.
"I'm not a real clothes horse, but I ran out a long time ago," Francona said before yesterday's game. "Not to get ahead of ourselves, but I think we're glad we're going home. Half of us will probably have clean underwear for the first time, so that will be good.
"How do you beat getting a ring and clean underwear?"