Wakefield solid, but Sox shut down

Wakefield solid, but Sox shut down

BOSTON -- A trifecta of ninth-inning magic in one three-game series against the Blue Jays? The stage was set for the Red Sox, who walked off with wins the previous two games and were given quite the momentary reprieve on Thursday night.

Coco Crisp had flied out to shallow right field and the Blue Jays were headed to the mound to congratulate closer B.J. Ryan on finishing off the 3-0 victory. But then there was confusion. Second-base umpire Bruce Dreckman called a balk, and Brandon Moss moved to second base.

After heading back toward the dugout, Crisp stepped back into the box. Two pitches later, he lined a single into right-center.

Perhaps the second opportunity was going to be everything for the Sox. Jed Lowrie worked the count to 3-1 and was just one pitch away from loading the bases for pinch-hitter Jason Varitek, who would have had the opportunity to deliver the ultimate kind of walk-off -- a grand slam.

But on this night, it was not to be. Lowrie fouled off the 3-1 pitch, and then took strike three on a pitch that might have been a little outside. This time, the game really was over and the 3-0 score held up.

"I didn't even see [Dreckman] call [the balk]," said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I just saw him waving stuff off. And then when Coco got the hit, I was like, 'Man, this seems like it might be something scripted for us.' But what are you going to do? It didn't work out."

The Red Sox were grateful for the opportunity, even if it didn't pan out.

"Anything to extend the game, and then Coco takes a good swing," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Having a chance is better than not having a chance."

The Boston bats -- already icy coming in -- were put in a near state of muteness by Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett. The righty went 7 2/3 innings and gave up three hits, giving himself enough margin for error not to allow a run on a night he walked five. Burnett also struck out five.

"He got out of a lot of jams," said Lowrie. "We hit a lot of balls hard tonight. Any time a guy throws a three-hitter through eight innings, or seven innings, you've got to tip you hat. He worked well and was able to get out of jams when he needed to."

Taking the tough-luck loss was knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who gave up seven hits and three runs over seven innings, while walking three and striking out none. It was the fifth consecutive game that a Boston starter went seven innings and allowed three runs or less.

In truth, Wakefield battled through on a night he wasn't at his best.

"In a game when you need something to go your way, we took more good swings than the line score will show, but we just saw three really good arms the last three days."
-- Red Sox manager Terry Francona

"I didn't have the command I would like to have," Wakefield said. "You're going to go through bouts like that and you grind it out as best you can. Unfortunately, Burnett had a great game for them."

Dominant pitching was the theme of the three-game series, in which the Sox were able to scratch out two wins. Combined, the two teams scored seven runs in the series.

"You saw six starting pitchers all throw the ball extremely well," said Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash. "Unfortunately tonight we fell behind."

The Jays struck first in the top of the third inning, getting an RBI single from Scott Rolen to make the score 1-0. In the fifth, the Jays rallied again. After a leadoff double by David Eckstein, Rolen was hit by a pitch. With one out, Vernon Wells made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to center.

The Blue Jays tacked on to their lead in the seventh when Alex Rios blasted a solo homer to left to lead off the inning.

Boston's last chance was started by a two-out walk from Moss in the bottom of the ninth. Then came the balk. And after that, Lowrie thought he had walked.

"He just tries to wrap it around the plate. That's the pitch he wanted to make and he executed it, and he got the pitch called a strike," Lowrie said. "There was nothing I could do about it. The best I could do was foul it off, but I didn't think it was a strike. What can I say?"

There wasn't much left to say after this one. The Red Sox will try to get their offense back in gear for a Fenway weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"In a game when you need something to go your way, we took more good swings than the line score will show, but we just saw three really good arms the last three days," Francona said.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.