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Feeling blue

Jays play spoilers as Sox start slowly

Sleep an hour or two and go to work. Chances are, there's no employee of the day trophy waiting at the end of the shift. Heck, if you were an airline pilot or truck driver, there might even be a criminal complaint.

The sleep-deprived Red Sox tried it yesterday in their home opener and fell face first in a game that started with all the promise of a new season of baseball in New England and ended with a fresh round of questions about how many more injuries their beleaguered club can bear.

By day's end, the Sox had dropped their third straight home opener -- 10-5 to the Blue Jays before 34,337 -- and added Johnny Damon and Ramiro Mendoza to an injury roll call that already includes Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon, and Byung Hyun Kim. And the dwindling number of healthy players among them wanted nothing else but pillows under their heads after their record slipped to 2-3.

"I might beat my kids to bed for the first time in awhile," Alan Embree said, with ice packs on his shoulder and elbow, and bags under his eyes.

So it was after the luckiest Sox players slept three or four hours, though most snoozed about as much as manager Terry Francona, who crashed for an hour on the couch in his clubhouse office after the team's numbing trip home from Baltimore. Due to mechancial problems with their Delta charter at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a flight that was scheduled to depart about 1:30 a.m. lifted off at 5:46 and touched down at Logan at 6:37. The Sox' bus arrived at Fenway for the season's first homestand at 7:24 a.m.

"An absolute nightmare," said Derek Lowe, who endured the last such incredible adventure, a 13-hour delay caused by violent thunderstorms at New York's LaGuardia Airport as the team tried to reach Toronto June 1, 1998.

"Brutal," said Tim Wakefield, who started against the Jays that day in '98. The Sox won, 9-5.

No such luck for the next generation of sleepwalkers. Playing a Toronto team that arrived in town Thursday at 7 p.m., just as the Sox began their debilitating 13-inning loss to the Orioles, Francona's club carried a 5-4 lead into the eighth inning before Mike Timlin squandered a save opportunity by surrendering three runs to the previously winless Jays.

Timlin was making his fourth appearance in five games, including the previous night's marathon. And the Sox' pen was so depleted that he had little choice but to endure Toronto's pounding as he threw 36 pitches in the inning, giving up three doubles and a single and hitting a batter.

Blame it on the workload and the sleep deprivation?

"I'm not going to throw any excuses out there," Timlin said, visibly fatigued. "I pitched bad. That was me. I didn't make quality pitches with two strikes, and that's what beat me."

Things grew so desperate for the Sox that after they squeezed all they could out of Embree, who surrendered a solo homer to Carlos Delgado and walked one of the other two batters he faced in the ninth inning, they turned to David McCarty. He became the first Boston position player to pitch since Mike Benjamin in 1997 as he surrendered a run on a walk and a double before he finished the inning.

But no excuses from anyone.

"I don't think it's the plane's fault," Francona said. "I don't think it's last night. We just lost the ballgame."

Before the fall, the Sox rallied from a 4-1 deficit to seize a 5-4 lead and give starter Bronson Arroyo a shot at the win when he departed after six innings. Arroyo, making his first career start for the Sox, yielded the four runs on eight hits and three walks.

"I was happy to leave the game with the lead," said Arroyo, who described his performance as sluggish. "But I wasn't happy with the outing."

Damon had helped to bail out Arroyo with a run-scoring single in the third inning. But he pounded a foul ball off his knee during the at-bat and left the game for pinch hitter Gabe Kapler in the fourth. Damon was scheduled to undergo tests today and said he is likely to miss at least two games. (Mendoza went on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis.)

David Ortiz singled home a run and Pokey Reese doubled home two more runs in his Boston home debut to help tie the score in the fourth inning. And Jason Varitek homered in the sixth to put the weary Sox ahead before they ran out of steam.

All in all, the outcome may not have been so surprising.

"As far as the energy level, you could tell coming into the clubhouse that nobody was really thrilled to be here," Embree said. "But we knew we had a job to do and gave it a good shot."

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