Red Sox knuckle under
Blown lead in 8th foils Wakefield’s bid
TORONTO - Over the course of a long season, even the best baseball teams are going to suffer painful losses. But what happened to the Red Sox and Tim Wakefield last night was something else entirely.
The Sox were six outs away from celebrating Wakefield’s 200th victory, a two-run lead in the capable hands of Daniel Bard. The Yankees already had lost, meaning the Sox would pick up a game in the division race.
But the going-nowhere Toronto Blue Jays rose up, scoring five runs in the eighth inning, and held on for an 11-10 victory.
The Sox players and manager Terry Francona had stunned expressions after the gut-punch loss. The 45-year-old Wakefield, who has gone nearly seven weeks without a victory, acknowledged for the first time that his milestone might not happen.
Neither will a division title if the Red Sox continue their September stumble. That’s five losses in their last seven games.
“I’m not even sure what to say,’’ designated hitter David Ortiz said. “That was a tough one. A bad one.’’
Bard, one of the best set-up men in the game, had an inexplicable loss of control in the eighth. He loaded the bases on a hit batter, a single, and walk.
“I just didn’t have real good timing with my delivery,’’ Bard said.
But Bard came back to strike out Dewayne Wise and Yunel Escobar. He then got ahead of Eric Thames 0-and-2 but could not put him away, missing badly with his final two pitches for a walk that forced in a run.
The dangerous Jose Bautista was next and Bard walked him on five pitches, the last two nowhere near the plate.
Francona did not have closer Jonathan Papelbon warming up knowing that Bautista was 0 for 5 against Bard in his career with three strikeouts.
“He had handled Bautista so well,’’ Francona said. “I actually thought it was the right thing to do.’’
With the score tied, Francona went to Matt Albers, who has struggled for five weeks. He gave up a three-run double by Edwin Encarnacion.
A frustrated Bard took a batting helmet to a water fountain in the dugout runway, denting the top. When he got to the clubhouse, Wakefield was waiting with words of encouragement.
“He was the first guy to come up and shake my hand, pat me on the back. He knows how hard I’m trying,’’ Bard said. “To be that close to getting out of it with the lead intact makes it even tougher. We’re trying for him.’’
The five runs were the most ever allowed by Bard (2-6).
“I guess it proves he’s human,’’ Francona said.
The Sox mounted a comeback in the ninth inning. Adrian Gonzalez homered and Marco Scutaro singled to drive in Ortiz with two outs.
But with Josh Reddick at the plate, pinch runner Mike Aviles was thrown out stealing to end the game.
Aviles got a bad jump on Frank Francisco and easily was thrown out by Jose Molina.
Wakefield handed an 8-5 lead to the bullpen. But he blamed himself for going only five innings.
“I put a lot of pressure on those guys from the sixth onto the ninth,’’ he said. “The ball was moving quite a bit. I had a hard time throwing strikes early.’’
Wakefield had had seven starts since his last victory on July 24. There has been a documentary camera crew following him around along with members of his family. What could have been a happy moment is now becoming almost a burden.
“If it happens, it happens,’’ Wakefield said. “If it doesn’t, it doesn’t change what I’ve done. I’d like it to happen. But more importantly, I think, is for us to get into the postseason. That’s our ultimate goal.’’
Said Francona: “It’s tough for our team. The whole idea is to win and in the course of winning games, things like what Wake’s doing is very special and will be. It’s hard for everybody.’’
The Sox had scored eight runs off Toronto starter Brandon Morrow. Scutaro had a two-run single in the first inning, Jacoby Ellsbury a three-run homer in the fourth, and Ortiz a solo blast in the fifth.
It looked like enough run support for Wakefield to celebrate. But what could have been a special night turned memorable for all the wrong reasons.