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Bard outing (5 ER) was lacking finish

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / September 8, 2011

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TORONTO - Daniel Bard said he never doubted himself. He was completely confident he could extricate himself from the mess he found himself in after loading the bases on a hit batsman, a single, and a walk.

Quite the trifecta.

“I’m definitely a believer until a run crosses the plate, I’m going to try to find a way to keep that from happening,’’ Bard said. “I fully believed, bases loaded, no outs, I can get out of that.’’

And, with the Red Sox clinging to an 8-6 lead with no outs in the bottom of the eighth of last night’s 11-10 loss to the Blue Jays, it appeared Bard was on his way to doing so after striking out the next two batters he faced.

Bard fanned Dewayne Wise with a 95-mile-per-hour fastball then fought back from a 3-and-1 count to punch out Yunel Escobar with a nasty 83-m.p.h. slider that caught the Blue Jays shortstop looking after he looked at a 97-m.p.h. fastball for strike two.

“Never doubted it,’’ Bard said. “I got two strikeouts and executed pitches when I needed to.’’

Bard’s confidence grew when he got ahead of the next batter, left fielder Eric Thames, with an 0-and-2 count on a 97-m.p.h. fastball for a called strike and a foul ball.

“I got to 0-and-2 on the next guy,’’ Bard said. “He had a really good at-bat and I lost it.’’

Indeed, that’s when it all went awry for Bard, the Sox, and starter Tim Wakefield, the 45-year-old knuckleballer who saw his chance to clinch the 200th win of his career after six failed attempts go up in flames in a five-run outburst by the Jays.

Wakefield took the no-decision, his fourth in his last seven attempts at his milestone triumph, and Bard (2-6, 2.76 ERA) absorbed the loss and his fourth blown save of the season after allowing a career-high five earned runs on one hit, three walks, and one hit batsman.

He threw 36 pitches, 17 strikes. The three walks were the most Bard had allowed in a game since last Sept. 11 when he had a career-high four.

Asked if he felt he had his usual command, Bard said, “Yes and no. It kind of came and went as the inning progressed, I guess. I just didn’t have real good timing with my delivery.’’

Bard seemed to lose grasp of that in his eight-pitch battle against Thames, who worked the count full and drew a run-scoring walk that pulled the Blue Jays within 8-7 and kept the bases loaded for designated hitter Jose Bautista.

“Real frustrating,’’ Bard said. “I made a couple of good pitches he was able to foul off and I wasn’t able to execute that putaway pitch or get him to pop up or anything.’’

After a brief visit from pitching coach Curt Young, Bard walked Bautista on five pitches, which pushed across Adam Loewen, who had reached on a single to right, with the tying run.

It prompted Sox manager Terry Francona to summon Matt Albers from the bullpen.

“It was a battle the whole way,’’ Francona said of Bard, who had entered in relief of Dan Wheeler with one man on and two out in the seventh.

“He just couldn’t get that last out.’’

Albers wound up giving up a three-run double to Edwin Encarnacion that put the Jays ahead to stay, with all three runs charged to Bard.

When Bard retreated to the clubhouse, he said the first person to greet him was Wakefield, who tried to console the reliever by offering his hand and patting him on the back.

“I put a lot of pressure on those guys,’’ said Wakefield, who lasted five innings and gave up five runs on three hits (including a two-run home run) and three walks while striking out three. “I take the blame for not getting deeper into the game and not giving the guys a little bit of rest.’’

But Bard wasn’t having any of it. “We’re trying for him,’’ Bard said of Wakefield. “He did his job today and I didn’t do mine.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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