Just when we thought the Red Sox were crawling out of their vicious late losing streak. Daniel Bard gave up three runs in the eighth inning to the Toronto Blue Jays, letting the Jays slip ahead for a 5-4 win. With the loss, the Red Sox fall four back in the division, and hold a four-game wild card lead over the Rays. The Rays, conveniently, come to Fenway for what has suddenly become a pivotal four-game series tonight.
Bard inherited a 4-2 lead, but two walks and a wild throw to first on a bunt later, the bases were loaded. A run scored on a grounder to third that Kevin Youkilis bobbled out of a double play chance. A single scored two more runs, and that was that.
Bard’s not doing well lately. In his last five appearances, he’s lost the lead in the seventh or eighth inning three times. With struggling starters and a mediocre bullpen, the Sox need Bard to get back to form heading into the postseason. You could argue that he’s the most important non-rotation pitcher this team has – he has to be there to pick up starters in the seventh or eighth inning, and he has to be able to hand Papelbon a lead. If Bard can’t do that, then outside of starting pitchers throwing eight innings on a regular basis, this team can’t go much farther.
Also concerning, Adrian Gonzalez left the game with tightness in his left calf, after he hit his 26th home run of the year. The Sox are calling it tightness in his left calf, and he’s day to day. He appears to be OK, and said he might even play today – but, a late-season Gonzalez injury is not what this team needs.