TORONTO -- Even if it was on a night when Tim Wakefield's performance was a bit spotty, the veteran knuckleballer finally had win No. 200 in his grasp, and it was something the Red Sox were looking forward to celebrating with him.
Instead, Daniel Bard, one of the most dominant relievers in the Major Leagues, had a big implosion in the bottom of the eighth, and Boston suffered a gut-wrenching 11-10 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Wednesday.
When Wakefield departed after five innings, the Red Sox had an 8-5 lead. By the time Bard came on with two outs in the seventh, the lead was down to two. The righty did his job in getting the Sox out of that inning.
But it all fell apart in the eighth, when Bard gave up a career-high five runs and threw 36 pitches, the most since his Major League debut on May 13, 2009.
However, Wakefield didn't want sympathy after the game. In a class move, he took accountability for the way the night fell apart for the Red Sox.
"I struggled the first three innings throwing strikes and put a lot of pressure on those guys from the sixth on to the ninth," said Wakefield. "I'll take the blame for not getting deeper into the game to give those guys a little bit of rest."
Bard felt horribly about the way things slipped away. But a teammate was there to try to perk him up.
"When I got in the clubhouse, [Wakefield] was the first guy to come up, shake my hand and pat me on the back," said Bard. "He knows how hard I'm trying. To be that close to getting out of it makes it even tougher. But we're trying for him. He did his job today and I didn't do mine."
Bard's control betrayed him, as he gave up just one hit, but walked three and hit a batter.
He opened the inning by hitting Brett Lawrie. Adam Loewen singled through the hole at second base and into right for his first Major League hit. A walk to J.P. Arencibia loaded the bases with nobody out. It looked like Bard just might escape when he punched out the next two batters -- Dewayne Wise and Yunel Escobar.
Up came Eric Thames, and Bard started him 0-2, meaning he needed just one more pitch to get out of the inning with no damage. But he then lost it again, walking Thames to force in a run.
"I'm definitely a believer that until a run crosses a plate, I'll try to find a way to keep that from happening," Bard said. "I fully believe with bases loaded and no outs that I can get out of that. I never doubted that. I got the two strikeouts, executed pitches when I needed to, got to 0-2 on the next guy, and he had a real good at-bat, and I lost him."
Without question, that was the at-bat that hurt the most.
"The Thames at-bat was probably key to the whole inning," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell. "He falls behind 0-2, doesn't overswing the remainder of the at-bat and continued to stay with a relentless at-bat and found his way back into the count 3-2. So he goes from 0-2 to a bases-loaded walk and RBI."
After that, it was the dangerous Jose Bautista standing in the way. Bard walked him on four pitches, tying the game and officially making Wakefield's seventh bid at No. 200 an unsuccessful one.
"I'm disappointed for [Bard]," said Wakefield. "It's one of those things where he's trying his best. I'll take the blame for him having to pitch an inning and a third tonight instead of one."
At that point, Sox manager Terry Francona went to the slumping Matt Albers. That didn't come close to working, as the righty served up a three-run double to Edwin Encarnacion.
"We just couldn't get the last out," Francona said. "After the last walk, I thought it was just enough pitches [for Bard]. We go to Albers, we give up the big three-run hit, and it ends up being too much."
Give the Red Sox credit for this, though. They put up a strong fight in the top of the ninth. Adrian Gonzalez cut the lead to two by belting a solo shot to right to open the inning. David Ortiz singled, and Marco Scutaro wound up bringing him home with an RBI single up the middle.
With Josh Reddick at the plate, Mike Aviles pinch-ran for Scutaro. Basestealers had been 12-for-12 against Jays closer Frank Francisco this season. But on an 0-2 pitch, Aviles was gunned down by Jays catcher Jose Molina, ending the game just like that.
"I didn't have a great jump, for one," said Aviles. "Two, that was probably the best pitch to get thrown out on. It wasn't a pitchout, but it was up and out. It just didn't work out well."
If the bullpen had held on, Wakefield would have become the 89th pitcher in baseball's modern era (since 1900) to win 200 games. Now, that pursuit is on hold for at least one more start.
A win would have moved Boston within 1 1/2 games of the Yankees in the American League East. Instead, the Sox stayed 2 1/2 back.
"Well, it's tough for our team," said Francona. "That's the whole idea is to win. Over the course of winning games, things like what Wake [is trying for] is very special, or will be. It's hard for everybody. I'm sure it's hard for him."
Down, 5-3, in the top of the fourth, the Red Sox stormed back for Wakefield. Josh Reddick doubled home Carl Crawford. And Jacoby Ellsbury, who has come up with big hits all season, delivered again with a three-run shot to right that made it 7-5, Sox. That was part of a four-hit night for the speedy center fielder, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
Then, in the fifth, David Ortiz hit a tape-measure home run, a towering blast that sailed into the upper deck in right. The solo shot was No. 29 on the season for Big Papi.
In truth, the night was a grind for Wakefield, as he threw 92 pitches over five innings, giving up three hits, five runs (four earned) and three walks while striking out three.
"The ball was moving quite a bit," Wakefield said. "I was having a hard time throwing strikes early those first three innings. The last two were really good, but unfortunately my pitch count was too high at that point. Tito made the decision to take me out."
This is the third time in his seven attempts at No. 200 that Wakefield has left with a lead, only to have the bullpen squander it.
"If it happens, it happens," said Wakefield. "If it doesn't, it doesn't change what I've done. I'd like it to happen, but more importantly is for us to get in the postseason. We're trailing the Yankees by 2 1/2 games. That's our ultimate goal."