TORONTO -- Generally when the game is hanging in the balance, Daniel Bard or Jonathan Papelbon is standing on the mound for the Red Sox. However, Monday was a different kind of day vs. the Blue Jays.
Josh Beckett had hobbled off the mound with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, his right ankle ailing.
By the time Brett Lawrie stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, manager Terry Francona had already received huge performances from Alfredo Aceves (3 2/3 shutout frames), Bard and Papelbon.
That left Dan Wheeler to try to prolong the game and give the Boston bats yet another chance to muster something -- anything. After retiring the first two batters with ease, Wheeler left a 1-1 fastball over the heart of the plate, and Lawrie cranked a towering walk-off shot to left-center to give Toronto a 1-0 victory.
"Yeah, fastball, kind of flat, went right down the middle," Wheeler said. "It was supposed to be down and away, but it didn't quite get there."
That is how Labor Day ended for the Red Sox, as they fell 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East -- the largest deficit Francona's team has faced since July 2.
However, more concerning than the loss was the uncertain status of Beckett. The ace righty, who is 12-5 with a 2.49 ERA, will fly back to Boston on Tuesday and be examined by the team's foot specialist, Dr. George Theodore.
"I never had it happen to me before," Beckett said. "I did something to my ankle -- not sure what it was."
Without Beckett, the bullpen had certainly set Boston up for victory in this one.
"It was tremendous," Francona said. "Aceves continues to come in [during] situations like that and give us a chance to win. It was unbelievable. When you're playing on the road, at some point when you give up a run, you go home not feeling good about yourself."
Lawrie handed the Red Sox their first 1-0 loss in Toronto since Sept. 21, 1988.
"Obviously the kid's a good young hitter in this league," Wheeler said. "He did what he was supposed to do."
To keep the Red Sox in it for that long, Bard (1 2/3 perfect innings) had emerged unscathed from a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth, and Papelbon had escaped a bases-loaded jam in the 10th.
"Tie games aren't easy. There's no room for error," said Bard. "I had a couple tough ones myself early on. You just make one pitch to try to get back in the count. That's tough. I totally feel for [Wheeler]. I know exactly how that feeling is, to see guys work hard the whole day. He's been throwing the ball so well. Hopefully this just passes and he gets back to what he's been doing."
It was shaping up as yet another stellar start for Beckett (three hits, one walk, six strikeouts) until the bottom of the fourth. On his second-to-last pitch, he felt his ankle stiffen up. And after his next pitch to Lawrie, he couldn't continue.
"It's definitely stiff," Beckett said. "I've got some stiffness and stuff in there."
Aceves just continues to come up big whenever the Red Sox need him to. He gave up one hit while walking three and striking out four.
Tough situation for Aceves to have to come into?
"No, Papa. I'm ready," Aceves said. "That doesn't bother me. I feel great, thanks [to] God. Unfortunately we didn't score. The most important thing about that is we lose, and I'm sad about that."
The Boston bats were stifled the entire day -- first by righty Henderson Alvarez, who fired six shutout innings.
"We played a complete game today, there's no doubt about it," said Toronto manager John Farrell.
What about the Boston bats, which have mustered two runs or less in three of the last five games?
"Their guy had tremendous movement -- natural movement," Francona said. "The ball was diving all over the place. Probably the one legit chance was Jacoby [Ellsbury] hitting the ball up the middle that the guy snags and turns into a double play. We've been a little inconsistent lately, been having some days where we really swing it, some days where we don't. Hopefully we'll find that consistency pretty soon."