Six home runs and a late six-run deficit proved too much to overcome -- barely -- as the Red Sox fell to Toronto at Fenway Park tonight, 8-7. A fifth straight loss prevented Boston from clinching the American League wild-card spot. But that could still come tonight, with the Sox only needing a loss by the Texas Rangers, who are playing at the Angels.
Clay Buchholz started for the Red Sox and gave up five home runs in five innings. The Blue Jays scored four runs in the first and led, 8-2, after the third home run of the game by Adam Lind, a solo shot which came in the seventh inning.
The Red Sox rallied with five runs in the eighth, cutting it to 8-7, and put two runners on in the bottom of the ninth with two outs before Kevin Youkilis struck out looking, delaying the Sox' wild-card party another day -- or, possibly, just a few more hours.
WILD CARD RALLY? (10:02, MID 9, 8-7 JAYS)
Jonathan Papelbon is always good for a little drama, and he provided some, getting the first two Jays out before plunking Lind -- who has three home runs tonight -- on the right elbow with his first pitch. Lind needed a few minutes, but took his base and stayed in the game. Wells ended the inning by fouling out to Kotchman. The Rangers are about to start their game with the Angels, but the Red Sox can win the wild card with a victory tonight. It'll take a ninth-inning rally, with Josh Reddick coming in to pinch hit for Gonzalez.
WE'VE GOT OURSELVES A GAME (9:51, END 8, 8-7 JAYS)
With the Fenway crowd juiced after the nightly playing of "Sweet Caroline," the Sox responded in kind, battering three Jays pitchers for five hits and five runs, and reducing the deficit to one. Ellsbury and Pedroia singled, but Shawn Camp -- the second pitcher of the inning -- induced Martinez to hit into a double play, the fourth twin-killing Sox batters have hit into. With Ellsbury on third and two out, Youkilis drove him in with a double to deep left-center. Ortiz then crushed one off the wall in front of the Sox bullpen, carrying Youkilis home. Jason Bay followed with a walk, and Drew deposited the first pitch he saw into the Sox bullpen for a three-run homer. Jason Frasor was brought into the game, and he ended the inning by getting Kotchman to foul out to Millar at third.
TIME RUNNING OUT (9:33, MID 8, 8-2 JAYS)
Wagner set the Jays down in order, giving Boston two more chances to cut into what currently stands as a six-run deficit. Millar, needing a triple for the cycle, flew out to left. Wagner struck Snider out swinging, then ended the inning by getting McDonald to fly out to right.
THIS IS NO STRETCH (9:26, END 7, 8-2 JAYS)
It may have been seventh-inning stretch time, but the long faces on the Sox faithful at Fenway continued. Kotchman singled after Drew grounded out, but Gonzalez followed with a double play. Billy Wagner taking the mound for the Sox in the eighth.
MAKE IT A SIX-PACK (9:20, MID 7, 8-2 JAYS)
Lind has hit his third home run of the game, tucking one inside the Pesky Pole off Takashi Saito leading off the seventh. It's the most home runs surrendered by the Sox in a game since Detroit hit seven on Aug. 8, 2004. Unless the Sox can pull off a big-time comeback, the champagne will remain on ice another night.
DOWN AGAIN IN ORDER (9:10, END 6, 7-2 JAYS)
A new pitcher couldn't get the Sox untracked, with Brandon League coming in after Romero and facing the minimum three batters. Youkilis worked a leadoff walk, but he was erased on a double-play ball hit by Ortiz. Bay hit a ball to deep left that Snider jumped and caught at the base of the Monster.
NEW PITCHER, NO RUNS (9:03, MID 6, 7-2 JAYS)
Ramirez relieved Buchholz, and aside from a double by Millar, he temporarily stopped the bleeding. Millar hit Ramirez's first pitch for a double to the corner in left, and now is only a triple short of the cycle. Millar was stranded at second when Snider flew out to Ellsbury, McDonald fouled out to Martinez behind the plate, and Bautista grounded out to short.
THREE UP, FOUR DOWN (8:55, END 5, 7-2 JAYS)
The Sox went in order, with Ellsbury grounding out to third, and Pedroia and Martinez flying out. Scariest part of the half-inning was when Martinez lined a hard foul ball into the seats between home plate and first base, maybe 10 rows up. An elderly woman appeared to be struck by the foul ball, but she didn't seem to be injured. As she and her male companion walked off with a security official, the gentleman sheepishly showed fans that he had secured the foul ball. Buchholz's night is over. Ramon Ramirez is now on the mound.
ANOTHER JAYS HOMER (8:45, MID 5, 7-2 JAYS)
There's finally someone warming up in the Boston bullpen. Toronto's fifth home run off Buchholz is what prompted it. Lind's second homer of the game -- he also had a two-homer game last week against Seattle -- helped the Jays match their season high for home runs in a game, and they've still got at least four more innings to top it. After the homer, Wells popped out to Pedroia, and Overbay and Barajas struck out.
RUNNERS, BUT NO RUNS (8:39, END 4, 6-2 JAYS)
The Sox had a good chance to cut further into Toronto's lead, putting two on with one out, but couldn't get anybody in. Ortiz, who was at the plate when Pedroia was caught stealing to end the third, singled to center on the 12th pitch of his at-bat. Bay flew out to center, but Drew singled, pushing Ortiz to second. Kotchman's grounder forced out Drew and left runners on the corners with two outs, but Gonzalez struck out swinging to end the threat.
JAYS GO HOMER-LESS (8:23, MID 4, 6-2 JAYS)
A mini-victory of sorts for Buchholz as he doesn't give up any home runs or allow the Jays to score. Youkilis assisted on the first and third outs, sandwiched around a strikeout by Bautista. Maybe that's the kind of momentum the Sox can build on.
ZERO ON THE BOARD (8:17, END 3, 6-2 JAYS)
It took a while, but there's finally a zero on the scoreboard signifying a futile half-inning. Unfortunately, it was the Red Sox in the third who didn't score. Pedroia opened the frame with his second hit of the night, a single to right. He moved to second on a groundout by Martinez, but Youkilis struck out. Pedroia then challenged conventional baseball wisdom and lost, making the final out at third base when he was caught stealing with Ortiz at the plate.
IDIOT BASHING (8:04, MID 3, 6-2 JAYS)
Three innings, and Buchholz has given up a home run in each frame. Ex-Sox favorite Millar went yard this time, a solo shot to left after the first two had been retired. Buchholz tagged Overbay out himself on a slow roller down the first-base line, then got Barajas to ground out to Kotchman. After Millar's home run, Snider struck out swinging. Still no activity in the Sox bullpen.
WILD NIGHT IS CALLING (7:56, END 2, 5-2 JAYS)
A pitcher's best friend helped Romero after he put the first two runners on -- Jason Bay with a walk and J.D. Drew with a single. Casey Kotchman hit into a double play, but he advanced Bay to third, and Romero's wild pitch brought him home. After Alex Gonzalez singled, Ellsbury grounded out to Overbay at first. There's been a lot of action through two innings.
2 INNINGS, 3 HOMERS (7:47, MID 2, 5-1 JAYS)
If Buchholz is auditioning for a playoff start, he's dug himself quite a hole. After retiring Bautista on a grounder to Youkilis to open the second, Buchholz watched his full-count offering to Hill sent deep into the Green Monster seats for Toronto's third home run in two innings. This one was a solo job. Lind and Wells both grounded out.
GOT ONE BACK (7:39, END 1, 4-1 JAYS)
A four-run deficit might be a tall task, but the Red Sox have had success against Jays rookie Ricky Romero. In four starts against Boston this season, Romero is 0-3 with an 8.83 ERA. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the home first with a sinking slicer toward left that Travis Snider dove for and caught. Dustin Pedroia's slicer to right was not caught, and gave the reigning AL MVP a double. Pedroia scored on a single by Victor Martinez, but that's all the Sox could get. Kevin Youkilis forced Martinez out at second on a fielder's choice, and after stealing second, was stranded there when David Ortiz struck out swinging.
ROUGH START (7:26, MID 1, 4-0 JAYS)
The fans at Fenway barely had any time to settle into their seats before Jose Bautista crushed Clay Buchholz's first pitch of the game over the Monster seats for a lead-off home run. Bautista's 10th home run of the season was followed by a single to right-center by Aaron Hill, then a towering two-run shot to straightaway center by Adam Lind, his 33d of the season. Just like that, and it's 3-0. After a Vernon Wells flyout, Lyle Overbay worked a walk, advanced to third on a Wall-ball single by Kevin Millar, and scored on a single by Travis Snider to make it 4-0. Not the start Buchholz was looking for, with the Sox a win away from clinching the American League wild-card playoff berth and trying to snap a four-game losing streak.