- James Hall
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TORONTO -- It wasn't supposed to end like this.
Everything was going so right for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre. The offense continued to click, the bullpen was well rested following Jon Lester's dominance of the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday and, above all else, starter Tim Wakefield was in line for his elusive 200th career win in his seventh attempt at the mark.
When rock-solid reliever Daniel Bard trotted to the mound to start the eighth inning, after retiring Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson with ease to end the seventh, Wakefield's special moment seemed safe and secure.
But things didn't go according to plan. And a night that began with promise ended with Bard solemnly answering questions about what happened and with Wakefield, yet again, stuck on win No. 199.
"When I got in the clubhouse, he was the first guy to come up, shake my hand and pat me on the back," Bard said of Wakefield. "He knows how hard I'm trying. To be that close to getting out of it with the lead intact makes it even tougher.
"We're trying for him."
Bard, who admittedly just didn't have it, issued three walks, one hit-by-pitch and a single, and effectively erased Wakefield's name from the win column by walking in two runs to allow the Jays to tie it at 8-all. Matt Albers tried to clean up Bard's bases-loaded mess but allowed all three inherited runners to score (on an Edwin Encarnacion double). The five earned runs allowed by Bard were a career high for the young right-hander.
The Red Sox scored twice in the ninth but lost 11-10, remaining 2 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.
"I struggled the first three innings throwing strikes," Wakefield said. "I put a lot of pressure on those guys from the sixth to the ninth. I'll take the blame for not going deep into the game, to give those guys a little bit of rest."
Wakefield was done after five innings, having allowed five runs (four earned) and thrown 92 pitches. He is winless over his past seven starts, dating to July 24 against Seattle -- a span in which he has posted a so-so 5.28 ERA and the Sox have won just two of those games.
Wakefield matched Hall of Famer Steve Carlton with his seventh start while attempting his 200th win. According to Elias, Al Orth made nine starts with 199 wins before hitting the milestone in 1907.
"If it happens, it happens," Wakefield said. "If it doesn't, it doesn't change what I've done. I'd like it to happen, but more important is for us to get in the postseason."
Manager Terry Francona said prior to the game that he was uncertain whether the 19-year veteran would take his turn in the rotation when the Sox returned home Tuesday.
With Erik Bedard (knee) and Josh Beckett (ankle) missing starts -- and Beckett's return date far from certain -- it seems likely Wakefield will get at least another go-round. But at 45, his status for next season is unclear, so he might be running out of chances.
"It's tough for our whole team," Francona said of Wakefield's wait. "The whole idea is to win. And in the course of winning games, things like what [Wakefield] is doing is very special, or will be.
"It's hard for everybody. I'm sure it's hard for him."
Despite the setback, Wakefield was fixated on shouldering the blame -- or at least taking some of the load off Bard, who saw his ERA rise from 2.10 to 2.76.
"I'm disappointed for him," Wakefield said. "It's one of those things where he is trying his best. Again, I'll take the blame for having him have to pitch an inning and a third instead of one."
On a positive note, the Red Sox offense put up double-digit runs for a second straight contest after being shut out in Monday's series opener.
The red-hot Marco Scutaro -- eight hits and seven RBIs in the first three games of the four-game set against the Jays -- collected a two-run single in the first. Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz added a three-run shot and solo bomb, respectively.
The Red Sox scored two in the ninth, one on an Adrian Gonzalez blast, to pull within a run. But
Mike Aviles, pinch running for Scutaro, spoiled the comeback bid by being thrown out by Jose Molina while trying to steal second with two outs.
"It's probably the best pitch to get thrown out on," Aviles said. "It wasn't a pitch out, but it was up and out. It just didn't work out well."
James Hall is covering the Red Sox-Blue Jays series for ESPNBoston.com.
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