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The inexplicably bad eighth inning of Daniel Bard

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 8, 2011 01:06 AM

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AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

TORONTO The Red Sox were 73-2 when leading after seven innings this season thanks in large part to the good work of Daniel Bard.

Before tonight, the Sox were 45-16 in games he had pitched. He had a 2.10 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP. There are a few set-up men who have been better this season, but it's a short list.

That's what made the eighth inning so strange. Bard, for lack of a better term, just blew up.

He hit Brett Lawrie with a 1-2 pitch. He allowed a single by Adam Loewen, a former pitcher making his major league debut as an outfielder. Then he walked J.P. Arencibia, a .219 hitter who had walked 30 times and struck out 119 times this season.

Those are three hitters he would normally retire with ease.

Bard came back to strike out Dewayne Wise and Yunel Escobar and got ahead of Eric Thames 0-and-2 before walking him.

The next hitter was Jose Bautista and Bard appeared to be trying to throw the ball 100 miles per hour. A five-pitch walk was the result and a tie game.

"Im definitely a believer that until a run crosses a plate, Ill try to find a way to keep that from happening. I fully believe with the bases loaded and no outs that I can get out of that. I never doubted that," said Bard, who was really torn up after the game and spoke in a raspy voice.

"I got the two strikeouts, executed pitches when I needed to, go to 0-2 on the next guy, he had a real good at-bat and I lost him."

Terry 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.

Papelbon has pitched more than one inning twice all season, the last time on May 9. That doesn't seem like a coincidence. Evidently, it's company policy not to use the closer for more than three outs.

With Papelbon not even up, Matt Albers came in. Predictably, given his results since Aug. 1, Edwin Encarnacion crushed a three-run double to center.

A frustrated Bard took a batting helmet to a water fountain in the dugout runway, denting the top. When he got to the clubhouse, hard-luck Tim 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 Im trying, Bard said. To be that close to getting out of it with the lead intact makes it even tougher. Were trying for him.

The five runs were a career worst for Bard. The 36 pitches he threw were two shy of his career high. The three walks were the most since he walked four almost a year ago.

He said he just never had the timing in his delivery.

The Red Sox have pretty bad timing, too. They've lost five of seven and tonight's loss cost them a chance to make up a game on the Yankees. The clubhouse was like a morgue after the game.

A few other notes:

Wakefield, who has gone nearly seven weeks without a victory, acknowledged for the first time that his 200th win might not happen.

If it happens, it happens, Wakefield said. If it doesnt, it doesnt change what Ive done. Id like it to happen. But more importantly, I think, is for us to get into the postseason. Thats our ultimate goal.

The Red Sox scored twice in the ninth inning and had the go-ahead run at the plate in Josh Reddick when pinch runner Mike Aviles was thrown out stealing.

Aviles got a terrible jump and was gunned down easily by Jose Molina, who came into the game for defensive purposes that inning. Aviles had the green light and picked a bad time to run. The pitch was up and away and he was dead.

Aviles was 14 of 16 on steals this season. Good idea, bad execution.

Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz are pushing aside Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez in the MVP race.

Ellsbury was 4 for 5 with a three-run homer. He is now hitting .316 with a .907 OPS and has scored 100 runs to go along with his 25 home runs, 39 doubles, 88 RBIs, and 36 steals.

Just for kicks, I checked out how many players in history have had 25 homers, 40 doubles, 90 RBIs, and 40 steals in the same season. The answer was stunning: Three.

Alfonso Soriano did it twice (2002, 2006), Bobby Abreu once (2004), and Howard Johnson once (1989).

Howard Johnson?

Ortiz was 2 for 4 with a homer. He is hitting .319 with a 1.002 OPS to along with 29 homers and 92 RBIs. For a man who's 35 and a DH, it's almost unprecedented.

Marco Scutaro is 17 of 35 with 11 RBIs against the Blue Jays this season, 14 of 23 at the Rogers Centre.

Thanks to everybody for reading. Tomorrow's another day. Or something like that.

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