Stumbling Sox fall down again
Miller can’t get them on track
TORONTO - The first-place Yankees threw open the door to the pennant race, losing back-to-back games to the lowly Orioles. But the Red Sox refuse to walk through.
A team so good for so long fell further into disarray last night, losing, 7-4, to the Blue Jays before a sparse crowd of 17,189 at Rogers Centre.
The Sox have dropped seven of their last 10 games and remain 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees. Now the Rays, who have crept within 6 1/2 games of the Sox for the wild card, are a more pressing concern. The Sox start a three-game series with the Rays tonight in St. Petersburg.
Captain Jason Varitek said the Sox have to look within before they fret about the Yankees and Rays.
“It’s no time to panic,’’ he said. “We’ve got to focus on us, pitching well, playing good defense. We’re swinging the bats pretty decent. But they have to match up.’’
None of the pieces have fit lately. The pitching staff has a 5.82 earned run average in the last 10 games. The offense has been held to two runs or fewer four times.
Even Dustin Pedroia, who has one hit in his last 23 at-bats, seems to have run out of energy.
“We want to play better, we want to win games,’’ Pedroia said after striking out with two runners on to end the game. “We’re trying to win a division. Playing like this, it’s not going to happen.’’
With Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard nursing injuries, the Sox tried to prop up their thin rotation by giving erratic lefthander Andrew Miller another start.
He had given up six runs in his last start, getting pulled in the second inning. Miller was better this time, allowing five runs in five innings. But that was far from good enough.
“It falls on me,’’ he said.
Miller left a runner at second base in the first inning. But Toronto went up, 4-0, in the second. Singles by Kelly Johnson, Brett Lawrie, and David Cooper accounted for the first run. J.P. Arencibia then connected on a low changeup and drove it deep to left field for his 22d home run and second in as many nights.
“It was basically one inning. It came back and bit me,’’ Miller said. “That changeup was down in the zone. It cut back down and in, right into his swing. Obviously want that one back. It’s tough to go out and put us behind like that.’’
Edwin Encarnacion made it 5-0 in the third inning when he pounded a fastball into the Red Sox bullpen in right field.
The evaluation of Miller by Sox manager Terry Francona was a familiar one.
“There’s flashes. But there’s still runs put up on the board,’’ he said.
Miller has a 5.58 ERA and 1.83 WHIP this season. But the Sox may have no choice but to keep giving him chances.
Toronto starter Ricky Romero came into the game 2-6 with an 8.08 ERA in 11 career starts against the Sox.
Romero (14-10) figured it out this time, allowing three runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.
The Sox helped Romero out in the first inning. Jacoby Ellsbury started the game with a double to the gap in right field, extending his hitting streak to 13 games. The next batter was Marco Scutaro, who was 8 of 13 in the first three games of the series with seven RBIs.
With the speedy Ellsbury on second, Scutaro bunted. The attempt to score one run failed as Pedroia struck out and David Ortiz grounded to second.
Down, 5-0, the Sox broke through in the seventh inning. Varitek drew a walk with one out and took second on a two-out single by Darnell McDonald. Ellsbury followed with an RBI double to left.
The hit gave Ellsbury 70 extra-base hits, the most for a Red Sox center fielder since Carl Everett had 70 in 2000.
Jays manager John Farrell went to Casey Janssen to face Scutaro. This time Scutaro was swinging, and he drove a two-run single into left field. The Sox had a chance for more, but Pedroia grounded out.
The Jays got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Eric Thames homered off Michael Bowden. Varitek hit a long home run in the ninth, but that was as close as the Sox would get.
For Francona, failing to gain ground on the Yankees is not what concerns him. It’s getting his suddenly wayward team on the right track.
“I think we care about winning a lot,’’ he said. “I don’t really get too concerned about what they’re doing. We try to spend our energy worrying about what we do. If we win, we’ll be OK.’’