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Warning signs

Bullpen lit up as Sox get pounded by Jays

There's plenty of signage on the facing of the Boston bullpen -- an ad for MasterCard, one for Verizon Wireless, another for PC Connection. How about one more, like a ''help wanted" sign?

The Sox bullpen, its woes documented ad nauseam this season, took over for Matt Clement in a less-than-ideal situation last night: bases loaded with two outs in the sixth inning, Sox behind, 5-1. But, in a mere 1 1/3 innings, Mike Myers, Matt Mantei, and John Halama combined to give up four hits and issue five walks. They were charged with seven runs, though three additional runs scored on Myers's watch that were charged to Clement.

All that added up to a 15-2 Blue Jays' pounding of the Sox, as Toronto tied a team record for runs at Fenway Park before a routinely groaning gathering of 35,302. The Jays scored in only three innings, plating four runs in the third, five in the sixth, and six in the seventh, sending the Sox to their worst loss since a 15-2 defeat to Oakland more than a year ago (May 27, 2004).

The bullpen's ERA has swelled to 5.47, with a stultifying 127 earned runs allowed in 207 innings. Five of six inherited runners scored last night, making it 45 of 98 this season. Sox relievers went into last night leading baseball in percentage of inherited runners allowed to score at 43.5, and that swelled to 45.9.

''I know it hasn't been great," Mark Bellhorn said of the bullpen's overall performance. ''They hear so much about that, that's all that they think about."

Presumably it's just about all Theo Epstein is thinking about, too, with the trade deadline 29 days away. The crushing blow last night -- OK, the most crushing blow -- was delivered by Reed Johnson.

Johnson, who hit a walkoff homer off Alan Embree May 24, managed to do something rare last night: sit on the bench for five innings and knock in six runs, anyhow. Johnson pinch hit in the sixth and launched a full-count grand slam off Myers, then knocked in two with a seventh-inning single. In his last four games vs. the Sox (May 24-26, and last night), Johnson is -- deep breath, everyone -- 7 for 14 with 3 home runs and 12 RBIs.

''It doesn't matter to this point what we throw Reed Johnson," said Sox manager Terry Francona. ''He's one step ahead of us. We make an adjustment, and he's already there. And he hits everything we throw."

The grand slam, which landed in Row 1 of the Monster seats just to the right of the light tower in left-center, made it 9-1. The grand slam was Toronto's second this season, both against the Red Sox. The other was Gregg Zaun's April 9 blast off Blaine Neal.

Clement was saddled with three of the four runs on the homer, making it eight runs allowed in his 5 2/3 innings, driving his ERA up nearly a half a run -- from 3.33 to 3.82 -- while his record dropped to 9-2. He hadn't allowed eight runs in an outing since August 2003 with the Cubs.

''I wasn't able to finish the inning off and I needed to," said Clement, who loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs, was allowed to face Russ Adams, who singled to make it 5-1, knocking him out after a season-high 118 pitches. ''I would like to have seen what happened if I'd kept it at 4-1.

''They kicked our butt. Kicked my butt and whatever followed.

Whether this affects Clement's likelihood of landing a spot in the All-Star Game wasn't foremost on his mind.

''If one game can determine whether you're on the team or not, oh well, I guess," he said. ''I feel I've battled pretty well this year and kept the team in the game a lot."

Mantei recorded the final out of the sixth, came out for the seventh, but couldn't get anyone out. He threw just six of his first 19 pitches for strikes and 13 of 32 overall. He faced six batters, went to three-ball counts on five of them, and walked four. He began the seventh by walking the bases loaded before allowing a two-run double to Eric Hinske on an 0-and-1 count to make it 11-1. He then walked Alex Ríos, at which point Francona removed him.

In 26 1/3 innings this season, Mantei has issued 24 walks, allowed 23 hits, and hit five batters, striking out 22. That's 29 base runners via walk or hit batsman.

''There is a command issue," Francona said. ''We see that."

Spoken about one. True of many.

Last night, meanwhile, was the Sox's first game against a division opponent since June 2 vs. Baltimore. And it marked the beginning of 11 of 14 games vs. the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Yankees. The Sox fell to 2-7 vs. Toronto and 15-17 vs. the AL East. In fact, the Sox are the only division leader in baseball without a winning record within its division.

''They've had their way with us," Francona said of the Blue Jays, who received yet another solid game against Boston out of Ted Lilly (6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER). ''Tonight they beat us all over the ballpark."

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