Red Sox win streak ends at five
Jays blast two home runs; knuckleballer Wakefield gets loss
BOSTON -- In the early hours of Monday morning, the Yankees skipped town for Florida. Despite the presence of Fenway's 316th straight sellout crowd for a nighttime tilt against the Blue Jays, the lingering energy of the weekend had also been squeezed out of town by the eighth inning of a 7-3 Blue Jays win.
Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin may have prevented an injury in that inning when he snagged a screaming line drive right at him off the bat of Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun. It was the loudest moment on an otherwise forgettable day, which witnessed the end of Boston's five-game winning streak.
"It was just kind of a lethargic day today," said backstop Doug Mirabelli, who was catching veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. "It just didn't feel like the energy that we've had. It just didn't seem like we had anything going today."
Former Red Sox pitcher Tomo Ohka got the win for the Blue Jays, his first against his former team since he was sent to the National League in a 2001 trade with the Montreal Expos. Wakefield, for his part, entered the night with the American League lead in ERA and he left Monday's ballgame after surrendering three runs -- and the lead -- in the sixth.
For the first five innings, Wakefield's knuckleball bit in and out on strikeout victims Alex Rios, Jason Phillips, Frank Thomas and Zaun (twice). The Boston starter allowed just four hits and one unearned run through that stretch, benefiting from the resistance of a strong wind at his face, which helps the knuckler move.
But on Wakefield's third trip through the order, Toronto's bats broke through. Wakefield issued a leadoff walk to Vernon Wells in the sixth, marking the first time he was unable to start an inning with an out. It was something that "shouldn't have happened," he said.
"And then with Vernon's speed at first," said Wakefield, "I tried to be a little bit too fast, to try to give [Mirabelli] a chance to possibly throw him out. And I just left the ball up."
The Big Hurt made the 40-year-old Red Sox veteran pay. Thomas, himself just two years Wakefield's junior, connected on a flat, high knuckler and sent it flying off the top of the Volvo sign above the Green Monster, his 16th career homer in Fenway Park.
"[It was] probably the turning point of the game, unfortunately," Wakefield said.
With the two-run shot, the Blue Jays' newest designated hitter crept just 10 home runs short of baseball's vaunted 500-homer club. The Jays added another home run in the eighth when second baseman Aaron Hill hit his fourth shot of the season off Timlin.
The Blue Jays lifted Ohka in the sixth inning. The former Red Sox hurler scuffled with his control -- he threw 97 pitches, only 55 of them strikes, in just five innings -- but "seemed to make a pitch tonight when he needed to get an out," Mirabelli said.
Ohka left the game with a 4-2 lead, which four Toronto relievers preserved in four-plus innings of work.
Toronto scored its first run of the night in the top of the first after an errant throw by Mirabelli.
Wells, who had doubled to the warning track in his first at-bat, drew the throw while attempting to swipe third base, but the ball sailed 15 feet to the right of the bag before it was knocked down by the outstretched glove of a diving Mike Lowell.
Wells scampered home comfortably while the ball spun to a stop in the dust, a no-man's land between Lowell and shortstop Julio Lugo, who had been backing up the throw.
Boston took the lead in the fourth when rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia doubled home two runs off the Green Monster. The Red Sox took a 2-1 lead into Wakefield's 30-pitch sixth, the deciding inning of the game.
Nonetheless, Red Sox manager Terry Francona blamed the team's problems on a lack of plate production. For the first time since before the Yankees series, the Sox were unable to recover from an early deficit to win.
"I thought the ball was moving well," Francona said of Wakefield. "You look at the scoreboard, we weren't doing a lot of damage tonight."
Wakefield finished the night with the loss after allowing three earned runs. The effort raised his season ERA to 2.08 and gave him two losses to go with his two wins.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.