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Sigh of relief

Foulke survives ninth, but it's an adventure

TORONTO -- Having witnessed moments last October when he was so resilient, so clutch, so unfailingly self-confident, it's somewhat odd to realize that Keith Foulke will do anything but succeed all the time.

Yet there he was on the mound last night, the bases loaded, two runs already across in the ninth inning, the Sox clinging to a 6-5 lead. About half of the 50,560 (a Jays Opening Night record) were still in the Rogers Centre, and they stood and hooted and hollered. Yet Foulke escaped, and got the save -- No. 1 of the season -- when Orlando Hudson grounded to second.

But Foulke wasn't pleased. His nameplate rested on the floor in his locker following the game. Either it fell or it was ripped down. When asked about his eight-batter ninth inning, he said, "Bad pitches, bad location, very disappointing. I let them get back in the ballgame. That's everything you need to know."

Four games into The Season After, reality has begun to sink in for the Red Sox. They might win another world championship, but in the meantime, they need to rediscover pitch location, timing, and confidence.

"Foulkey's going to be fine," asserted Trot Nixon, who homered in the third inning, his first hit of the season. "Bases loaded, two outs. That's not what you want, but that's why we pay him the big bucks. That's why we got him. He got into that, and he got out."

In three appearances totaling three innings this season, Foulke has given up three earned runs on five hits -- including Derek Jeter's walkoff home run Tuesday -- walked one, and hit a batter.

Last night he allowed three straight singles to Corey Koskie, Shea Hillenbrand, and Eric Hinske.

Hinske's hit scored a run, as did Gregg Zaun's ground out to second. bringing the Jays within 6-5. With two outs and Hinske on third, Foulke walked Frank Menechino on five pitches, then hit Reed Johnson with an 0-and-2 pitch. But he got the grounder he needed from Hudson, and the angst was for naught.

"I'll tell you," said bench coach Brad Mills, managing in Terry Francona's absence, "Terry, hurry up."

The good news? Bronson Arroyo, who hadn't pitched since giving up seven runs, six earned, a week ago in Arizona, allowed only three hits in his regular-season debut. The 28-year-old righthander threw 95 pitches, 61 for strikes, walked one, and struck out four, including Koskie to end the sixth. He walked off, his night done, with the Blue Jays 1-5 hitters a combined 0 for 15 against him.

"Bronson, you can't say enough about that outing," Mills said. "He hadn't pitched in [seven days] and he did an outstanding job. He enabled us to get to the bullpen.

"His maturity as a pitcher has come up, his confidence to throw offspeed pitches behind in the count. He's come a long way."

Arroyo gave up one run in the second on a two-out double to Hinske followed by a Zaun single. On the double, Johnny Damon crashed into the new electronic video board in left-center field, cutting himself for six stitches. He will be sidelined for at least today's game.

In the third, Arroyo surrendered a solo homer to No. 9 hitter Russ Adams. Arroyo hung a breaking ball that Adams lined to right for his fifth homer in 78 career at-bats.

"The home run was a decent changeup," Arroyo said. "He looked like he knew it was coming."

The question with Arroyo is what comes next. Curt Schilling will pitch Wednesday against the Yankees on Arroyo's scheduled day. Does Arroyo skip a start, or does everyone in the rotation get pushed back a day? It's a decision Mills said will be made Monday.

The offense, meanwhile, continued to click. The Sox managed nine hits, including two home runs. Jason Varitek homered in the second inning, turning on starter Dave Bush's 3-and-1 fastball up and in, a pitch similar in location to the cutter Varitek hit off Mariano Rivera on Tuesday for a ninth-inning home run. This homer, a towering fly ball, was estimated at 403 feet, somewhat surprising given that it caromed off the facing of the fifth deck.

Hitless in seven at-bats this season, Nixon led off the third with a homer to right. That staked the Sox to a 3-1 lead.

Adams answered in the bottom of the inning, cutting it to 3-2. The Sox tacked on one in the sixth and two in the seventh, though just one of the last two runs were earned.

In the seventh, Damon reached with a one-out single and Nixon followed with a grounder to pitcher Brandon League. League looked to be out of the inning with a double-play comebacker but he threw the ball wide of second base. Ramirez singled in Damon, and Ortiz doubled in Nixon for a 6-2 lead.

Toronto pulled within 6-3 in the seventh on a solo homer by Hinske off Alan Embree, setting the stage for the ninth.

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