Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Red Sox let things slip a little

Pitching, defense falter as division lead shrinks

TORONTO -- Delivered by Keith Foulke, the pitch clipped Eric Hinske just below the arm, the former Red Sox closer putting on base his fifth consecutive batter (walk, single, walk, single, hit batsman) of last night's seventh inning. Hinske, visibly upset, spread his arms, looked at Foulke, and shouted, ''Come on, man."

The source of Hinske's dissatisfaction? Was there a history between the two?

''No," Hinske said. ''I got hit right in the nipple. Not fun. He said on the mound he didn't mean to hit me. He just pulled a four-seam fastball. He said, 'My bad.' He said he was sorry."

And so it went last night for the embattled Foulke, whose seventh batter of the inning summed up the Sox' evening, a night that ended with a 9-3 loss. Behind, 5-0, after Toronto hung a five-spot on Matt Clement in the second inning, and as close as 6-3 after six innings, the Sox were unable to chip away any more after Foulke entered and allowed two runs, with Edgar Renteria's major league-leading 27th error doing nothing to help the confounded and ineffective righthander.

This came on a night when the Yankees put up 17 runs in St. Petersburg, Fla., scoring five in the first, five in the second, and seven in the sixth to pound the Devil Rays, 17-3, and pull within 2 1/2 games of the American League East lead. The Yankees improved to just 6-11 this season vs. Tampa Bay. If they'd played a game over .500 vs. Tampa Bay to this point, they would be leading the AL East by half a game.

And what the Devil Rays have been to the Yankees, the Blue Jays have been to the Red Sox. The Sox fell to just 4-9 vs. Toronto and must face the Blue Jays five more times (tonight, and at Fenway Sept. 26-29).

The role of spoiler, a role Toronto enjoys?

''Absolutely," said Jays left fielder Frank Catalanotto, who doubled and scored in the fifth inning off Clement, then walked and scored against Foulke in the seventh. ''We can get some satisfaction out of going out there and affecting the race one way or the other.

''Obviously, Tampa's had New York's number until tonight, and we've played well against Boston."

Last night, one big inning set the tone. Clement, who'd lost just once in 13 road starts, was roughed up in the Toronto second, when the Jays sent eight men to the plate and struck for five runs on just four hits.

Corey Koskie began the inning with a walk, and Shea Hillenbrand followed with a double to left. Clement fanned Hinske, but catcher Gregg Zaun followed with a two-run double to right on a 1-and-2 pitch.

''The pitch that's staying with me is the double by Zaun," said Clement (13-5, 4.33 ERA). ''I had him."

Clement still appeared to have Zaun off the bat, as the ball, though hit well, was catchable. Swifter right fielders get to that ball, but Kevin Millar didn't, exposing the club's lack of outfield depth/speed in the absence of Johnny Damon. The Sox were playing their third consecutive game without Damon, who yesterday underwent an MRI in Boston that showed no structural damage to his left shoulder. Still, he remained back home and won't play until tomorrow vs. Oakland, at the earliest.

Aaron Hill then plated Zaun with an RBI single, making it 3-0, and, behind 0-and-1, the No. 9 hitter, Gabe Gross, hit a hanger for his first homer since Sept. 18, 2004 (vs. Tampa Bay).

''That kind of punctuates the inning," said manager Terry Francona. ''We're hanging in there, he's hanging in there, and the ball's out of the ballpark."

Still, it remained a game when Clement exited, the Sox having produced one run in the fifth (Gabe Kapler RBI single) and two in the sixth (David Ortiz solo homer, Millar sac fly).

Ortiz's 41st of the year tied Alex Rodriguez for the league lead and matched Ortiz's career high, set last year. His 82 regular-season blasts since the beginning of last season give him a chance at the club record for most home runs over a two-year span. Jimmie Foxx owns mark that with 86 -- 36 in 1937 and 50 in 1938.

Trailing, 6-3, Francona summoned Foulke, who managed only 11 strikes among the 27 pitches he threw to eight batters. Foulke actually got two immediate outs before allowing five consecutive men to reach with two outs, scoring two and increasing Toronto's lead to 8-3.

Foulke might have had an easier time if not for Renteria's second error of the game. With two outs and one on, Vernon Wells hit a ball in the hole to Renteria, who jumped and threw high and wide of second base. Wells was given a hit but the error was charged when the runner ahead of Wells scored and Wells advanced to third.

Renteria also made an error, though not costly, in the fifth, failing to catch a Kapler relay throw and allowing a runner to advance. The errors brought his season total to 27, tying his career high set in 2000 with St. Louis. He moved two ahead of Toronto rookie shortstop Russ Adams for the major league lead among all players.

''In a game where we don't need something like that to happen to extend an inning, it does, and it certainly makes it harder for us to win," Francona said.

Foulke, since coming off the DL, has submitted this line: 5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 2 HBP.

Francona's take: ''I'm sure he was very frustrated tonight. The thing we told him, [pitching coach Dave Wallace] and myself both, is because we rode his back so many times, that we'll do this together.

''As bad as it is for him, we're there for him and we're going to try to get this right. Sometimes you don't have all the right answers at the moment, but we will certainly try to. I just wanted to make sure he understands it. It's us. It's we."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives