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Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 6

Red Sox sunk in seventh

Blue Jays take charge by capitalizing on Jenks’s rocky relief work

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 16, 2011

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The Red Sox have clung to the idea that it was still early in the season like it was a life preserver. But the “Opening Week’’ logo painted on the grass behind the plate at Fenway Park has nearly faded away and, with it, the hopes that these first few weeks are not reflective of a team that was vastly overrated.

The worst team in baseball did not benefit from its two-day respite, losing, 7-6, to the Toronto Blue Jays last night before a crowd of 37,467 fans, most of whom fled into the cold night long before the game was over.

At this point, the 2-10 Sox aren’t denying the obvious. They are a team in serious trouble.

“We’re there now. We’re in a tough position. To come back right now, it’s going to take all year long,’’ said reliever Bobby Jenks, who gave up four runs in the seventh inning. “We need to get on it now. We need to turn this thing around.’’

That other 2-10 teams have rebounded to make the playoffs — the 2001 Oakland Athletics being the latest — is not a salient point at the moment. Getting to .500 looks akin to walking up Mount Washington carrying a sack of bricks to this team.

The Sox had only five hits and again witnessed a shaky performance by righthander Clay Buchholz, who lasted only five innings and matched his career high with five walks.

Carl Crawford, their $142 million left fielder, was 0 for 5. He is down to .137 and looks desperately in need of a day off.

Adrian Gonzalez, who yesterday was awarded a $154 million contract extension, is 2 for 17 with one RBI in the last five games.

That the Red Sox managed to make it close by scoring three runs in the eighth inning was viewed as an accomplishment.

“We’re looking for positives,’’ manager Terry Francona said.

The good news is the rest of the American League East isn’t significantly better. Despite their many woes, the Sox are only five games out first place with 150 games left to play.

“It’s a little monotonous now saying that we’re going to come out it,’’ Buchholz said. “But it’s going to happen, that’s a given.’’

Buchholz is a big part of the problem. The righthander threw only 46 of his 94 pitches for strikes. He has a 6.60 earned run average through three starts. After averaging an economical 3.5 walks per nine innings last season, Buchholz has walked 10 in 15 innings this season.

“Five walks, man. I was always told let them get hits and beat you. When you give them free passes, I feel like I should have been pinned with this loss,’’ he said. “Eliminate two of those walks, that’s two runs they don’t score and we win the game.’’

Particularly given the circumstances. Home runs by Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis off Brett Cecil gave the Sox a 3-0 lead in the third inning.

Buchholz rolled into the fifth inning with a one-hit shutout. Going back to last season, he had given up one earned run over 26 innings against Toronto. It didn’t last.

Buchholz walked the bottom two hitters in the lineup, Juan Rivera and Jayson Nix, with one out. With two outs, Corey Patterson had a two-run triple into the corner in right field.

Poor control cost Buchholz again in the sixth inning as he walked Adam Lind on four pitches to start the inning. When Aaron Hill followed with a sharp single to left, Francona called in Alfredo Aceves.

J.P. Arencibia grounded into a double play, but Travis Snider doubled off the wall in left and the game was tied, 3-3.

“I thought it was a fight from the very beginning for [Buchholz] to command,’’ Francona said. “The whole time he just couldn’t settle in and throw enough strikes.’’

Said Buchholz: “That was one of the most uncomfortable outings I’ve ever been a part of. Throw a pitch for a strike then try and throw the same pitch and go completely the opposite direction I’m trying to throw.’’

Jenks, nearly perfect in his first four outings, gave the game away in the seventh.

Nix walked again. He then broke for second as Yunel Escobar swung, pulling Marco Scutaro out of position at shortstop and allowing the ball to roll into left field. Nix took third on the single and scored when Jose Bautista hammered a ball so hard off the wall in left that he was limited to a single.

Lind followed with an RBI single to left. After a double steal, Bautista scored when a pitch bounced between the legs of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Hill’s RBI single gave Toronto a 7-3 lead and the crowd booed Jenks as he left the mound.

“I flat-out stunk,’’ said Jenks, who had never before given up four runs in a game.

After Cecil (1-1) went six, the Sox scored three runs off Marc Rzepczynski and Casey Janssen in the eighth. Jed Lowrie had a pinch-hit RBI single and Scutaro a two-run double. But Jon Rauch retired the side in order in the ninth for his third save.

The Sox were 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position, leaving them 9 for 52 (.173) in the last five games.

“It just seems right now that nothing can go our way,’’ Jenks said. “It’s not like anybody’s not trying out there. Everyone’s busting their butt doing everything we can to win these ball games. It just seems like every night, one way or another, we’re coming up short.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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