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Gagne blows save for slumping Red Sox; AL East lead cut to 2½ games

CBSSports.com wire reports
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TORONTO -- Once the best closer in baseball, Red Sox reliever Eric Gagne has suddenly become shaky.

So has Boston's lead in the AL East.

Gagne allowed three eighth-inning runs, two of them on a double by Russ Adams, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Red Sox 4-3 on Tuesday night.

"I don't know how to put it into words," Gagne said. "It's just very frustrating."

Boston has lost three straight and had its lead in the AL East cut to 2½ games over New York, after the Yankees' 12-0 victory against Baltimore. It's the smallest Red Sox lead since before play on April 26.

"I don't think anybody is thinking about that," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We need to play better than we have been."

Gagne, who holds the major league record with 84 consecutive saves, has blown four saves since joining Boston from Texas in a July 31 trade. All four games have ended as Red Sox losses.

"We've had some weird games this past week," catcher Jason Varitek said. "Those things happen throughout a season. You don't want them to happen now but we need to focus on what we need to do to make things right."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Gagne appeared to be overthrowing as the inning unraveled.

"It looked like he wanted to throw it through the backstop instead of remembering what makes him Gagne," Francona said. "He got a little revved up. Johnny (pitching coach John Farrell) tried to go out and slow him down and it didn't end up very well."

Boston led 2-1 in the eighth when Frank Thomas drew a two-out walk off Gagne (3-2). Thomas was replaced by pinch-runner Curtis Thigpen, and Aaron Hill singled and Matt Stairs walked before Gregg Zaun drew a five-pitch walk to tie the game.

"I felt good physically," said Gagne, who was out with a sore shoulder from Aug. 27 to Sept. 10. "I walked Thomas and after that I didn't throw strikes."

Gagne got in a brief argument with plate umpire Ed Rapuano, then gave up Adams' double that barely cleared the outstretched arm of J.D. Drew in right field. Hill and Stairs scored but Zaun was thrown out at the plate, ending the inning.

"I was just being emotional out on the mound, frustrated at myself," Gagne said.

Varitek wasn't so diplomatic.

"He made some pitches that could go either way and he didn't get any of those calls," Varitek said.

Even with closer Jonathan Papelbon warming in the bullpen, Francona chose to stick with Gagne.

"He had two quick outs," Francona said. "That's his inning to get out of."

A.J. Burnett came within one out of a complete game to win for the fourth time in eight starts since returning from the disabled list Aug. 12, after missing 37 games with a sore shoulder. He gave up three runs and nine hits, striking out 11 and walking three -- one intentional.

Burnett (9-7) started the ninth and got the first two outs before Julio Lugo homered to left. Scott Downs came on to face Jacoby Ellsbury and got him looking for his first save.

The Blue Jays opened the scoring in the first on Alex Rios' RBI double.

Thomas advanced Rios to third with a base hit, but he was thrown out at the plate on Hill's fielder's choice grounder. Stairs loaded the bases with a walk, but Jon Lester struck out Zaun to escape the jam.

Lester clamped down after his shaky first, allowing just a walk to Rios in the third, a single to Zaun in the fourth and a walk to Hector Luna in the seventh. He yielded one run and three hits in 6 2/3 innings, walked four and struck out five.

"He's a maturing young pitcher, that's for sure," Francona said.

Manny Delcarmen replaced Lester and got Wells to fly out to end the seventh.

Boston tied it at 1 in the fourth on a two-out double by Varitek, then went ahead in the fifth on another two-out double, this one from David Ortiz. The hit snapped an 0-for-9 slump for Ortiz, who is 1-for-8 with six strikeouts in his past two games.

Boston is still without outfielder Manny Ramirez, who has missed the past 20 games with a strained left oblique muscle.

"It's not going away," Francona said. "He's been working hard but it's not there. The running yesterday didn't go as well as he had hoped."

Francona plans to give starters Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling extra days off before their next starts as he tries to set his rotation for the playoffs. Matsuzaka, working on three extra days of rest, will go Saturday at Tampa Bay. Schilling will go on four extra days of rest against Oakland next Tuesday.

Notes

  • Ortiz has 27 RBI in his past 24 games.
  • Toronto Raptors guard T.J. Ford and forward Jason Kapono attended the game.
  • Stairs played in his 1,532nd career game, passing Terry Puhl for second-most by a Canadian-born player. Larry Walker (1988) tops the list.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Eric Gagne can't hide his 8th-inning frustrations as he blows a save for the fourth time with the Red Sox. (AP)
Eric Gagne can't hide his 8th-inning frustrations as he blows a save for the fourth time with the Red Sox. (AP)

Players of the Game
Toronto

A. Burnett
IP 8.2
H 9
ER 3
BB 3
K 11
Boston

J. Lugo
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Boston Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF5010031 .367
Dustin Pedroia, 2B4110001 .320
David Ortiz, DH4011031 .321
Mike Lowell, 3B3110101 .329
J.D. Drew, RF3010112 .261
Eric Hinske, 1B4000023 .215
Jason Varitek, C4021010 .254
Brandon Moss, LF3000113 .182
Julio Lugo, SS4121011 .241
Totals34393312  
Batting
2B - David Ortiz (47, Burnett), Jason Varitek (14, Burnett)
HR - Julio Lugo (7, Burnett)
RBI - David Ortiz (107), Jason Varitek (63), Julio Lugo (71)
2-OUT RBI - David Ortiz (40), Jason Varitek (25), Julio Lugo (24)
SB - Jacoby Ellsbury (7, 3rd base off Burnett/Zaun)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
Outfield Assists - J.D. Drew 1
Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester 6.2311450 4.45
Manny Delcarmen (H,9) 0.1000000 2.35
Eric Gagne (BS,4; L,3-2) 1233300 4.18
Pitches-Strikes - Jon Lester 108-66, Manny Delcarmen 3-1, Eric Gagne 32-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jon Lester 6-9, Eric Gagne 1-1
Batters Faced - Jon Lester 27, Manny Delcarmen 1, Eric Gagne 7
Toronto Blue Jays
Vernon Wells, CF3100101 .246
Reed Johnson, LF4000011 .245
Alex Rios, RF3011100 .299
Frank Thomas, DH3010101 .271
    Curtis Thigpen, PR-DH0100000 .203
Aaron Hill, 2B4110011 .277
Matt Stairs, 1B2100200 .299
    Lyle Overbay, 1B0000000 .242
Gregg Zaun, C3011123 .248
Hector Luna, 3B2000111 .174
   a- Russ Adams, PH-3B1012000 .310
Ray Olmedo, SS3000002 .185
Totals2845475  
a-doubled for Luna in the 8th
Batting
2B - Alex Rios (40, Lester), Russ Adams (2, Gagne)
RBI - Alex Rios (81), Gregg Zaun (47), Russ Adams 2 (4)
2-OUT RBI - Gregg Zaun (18), Russ Adams 2 (3)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Burnett-Olmedo-Stairs, Hill-Olmedo-Stairs
E - Gregg Zaun (8, Throwing)
Toronto Blue Jays
A.J. Burnett (W,9-7) 8.29333111 3.40
Scott Downs (S,1) 0.1000010 2.29
IBB - Lowell by A.J. Burnett
Pitches-Strikes - A.J. Burnett 124-77, Scott Downs 5-3
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - A.J. Burnett 9-4
Batters Faced - A.J. Burnett 36, Scott Downs 1
Game Information
Attendance - 32290
Game Time - 2:50
Temperature - 68
Umpires - Home - Ed Rapuano, First Base - Ed Hickox, Second Base - Scott Barry, Third Base - C.B. Bucknor