Tired Sox Swept By Jays

The Red Sox are headed home, and not a minute too soon.

The world-weary Sox capped a 16,000-mile, three-week road trip Sunday by falling to the Blue Jays, 7-4, in front of a crowd of 30,114 in Toronto. The Jays swept the three-game series as the Sox fell to 3-4—the first time since the first week of last season that they've dropped under .500. They're also in last place for the first time in almost exactly two years (Apr. 10, 2005).

The Jays outscored the Sox, 20-9, in the three games. "It's kind of to be expected with the toll the trip takes," J.D. Drew told reporters afterward. "We're finally at the end of it, so it's back on track when we get to Boston."

The Sox, who departed Ft. Myers March 19 and have hit Tokyo, Los Angeles, Oakland and Toronto on their grand voyage, finally return to Boston late Sunday and will open the 96th season at Fenway Park Tuesday against the reeling Tigers.

Josh Beckett, who was activated off the disabled list prior to the game, started strong but faded in the fifth inning of his season debut. He allowed one hit and one walk in three shutout innings before he gave up two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth. Vernon Wells hit a two-run homer in the fourth and Beckett allowed a single and two walks, all with two outs, in the fifth before Manny Delcarmen came in and surrendered a grand slam to Frank Thomas.

Beckett, who suffered back and hip injuries while warming up for a Grapefruit League start against the Marlins March 8, gave up five runs on three hits and four walks while striking out six in his 92-pitch outing. Beckett walked four batters in a start only once last year—in his season debut against the Royals Apr. 4. He gave up five or more runs in a start just five times in 30 outings in 2007.

The Sox were relatively pleased with Beckett's performance considering it was his first non-intrasquad game action since Feb. 28. "I thought his legs started to go a little bit, which is understandable," Terry Francona told reporters afterward. "I wanted to give him the opportunity to get through five, because I think he deserved it.

"That's kind of the fine line you walk. You don't want to go too far with him."

The Sox stirred on offense by racking up 10 hits against Roy Halladay and closer Jeremy Accardo. Drew, Jason Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury all hit solo homers while Drew and Varitek had two hits each. Drew has two homers in 16 at-bats, as many homers as he hit in 79 at-bats last April. And Varitek, with two homers, has gone deep as many times in 23 at-bats as he did in 67 at-bats last April.

The only player without a hit was Julio Lugo, who had a brutal game in the field as well with three errors. He's already committed four errors in six games.

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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