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BOS@TOR: Varitek goes deep in the ninth

TORONTO -- They aren't going home, but the Red Sox will at least be happy to get back stateside after a disappointing experience in Toronto.

Thursday night's 7-4 defeat to the Blue Jays made it three losses in four games at Rogers Centre.

"The first game here, those guys pitched their [butts] off," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. "The second game we beat them up. Yesterday was a game we should have won. Today they came out of the gates swinging. We have to make adjustments."

Next stop? Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

It is under that roof where the Sox will try to get out of the lull they've been in of late, losing seven of their last 10 games, and three straight series.

"We want to play better," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We want to win games. We're trying to win the division. Playing like this, it's not going to happen. So we've got to play better."

For the second night in a row, the Red Sox lost an opportunity to gain ground in the American League East, instead staying 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees, but 6 1/2 in front of the Rays in the AL Wild Card standings.

"I think we care about winning a lot," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I don't get too concerned about what they're doing. We try to expend our energy worrying about what we do. If we win, we'll be OK."

In this one, lefty Andrew Miller, who has been defined by his inconsistency, struggled again.

After two dominant starts in Kansas City and Texas, Miller had his second shaky performance in a row. Over five innings, he gave up eight hits and five runs, walking two and striking out three. He is 6-3 with a 5.58 ERA.

"You know, there are flashes, but there are still runs put up on the board," Francona said.

The one positive is that nearly all of the damage came in one inning -- the bottom of the second. Hoping to erase the sour taste from his last start, Miller instead got into near immediate trouble. He gave up three straight singles to open the second, the last of which was an RBI knock by David Cooper. Up next was J.P. Arencibia, who unloaded for a mammoth three-run shot into the upper deck in left. The Sox were in a quick 4-0 hole.

"I felt good. Basically, one inning I think came back and bit me," said Miller. "I started off with a weak infield ground ball, good piece of hitting. Then a blooper. On 3-2 [to Arencibia, I] threw a changeup down in the zone, and it just kind of cut back down and in right into his swing. Obviously I want that one back, but it's tough to go out there and put us behind like that. That's not what you want to do."

Edwin Encarnacion launched a solo shot in the third to make it a five-run game.

This was the wrong pitcher for the Red Sox to face such a deficit against. Though he has flown under the radar, Ricky Romero has been one of the top lefty starters in baseball this season, and has been red-hot of late. He powered right through Boston's lineup, allowing three hits over the first five innings.

"And the way Romero was throwing, the hole seemed bigger," Francona said.

Just when it seemed Boston's offense was going to get completely shut down, there was some life in the seventh.

Jason Varitek started it innocently enough with a one-out walk. With two outs, Darnell McDonald legged out an infield hit. Jacoby Ellsbury belted an RBI double into the corner in left. Marco Scutaro drove home two with a single and the Sox were suddenly down by just two. But the rally ended when Pedroia -- who went 1-for-20 in the series -- grounded out.

"I've been swinging the bat [poorly] for five games," said Pedroia. "There will be a time where I swing the bat for five games where I won't get out. That's how it happens."

Michael Bowden gave some of Boston's momentum right back, giving up a solo homer to right to Eric Thames. The Jays added another in the eighth against Felix Doubront.

But the Red Sox threatened in the ninth against Frank Francisco. Varitek led off the ninth with a homer, his 11th of the season, slicing the deficit to three. With two outs, Ellsbury reached on an error and the red-hot Scutaro (3-for-4) singled.

Up stepped Pedroia, who represented the tying run. But instead of a dramatic end to his slump, Pedroia struck out on a 95-mph heater to end the game.

"We're all trying to do good things and we're trying to win games," Pedroia said. "It's that time of year where we've got to do that. It will turn."

Meanwhile, after playing three on the road against the Rays, the Red Sox will get another crack at the Jays in a two-game series at Fenway next week.

"We played good baseball," Arencibia said. "It was a big series win for us, especially being a four-game series against these guys. It's always tough; they're a good team. Obviously we came out and played pretty good baseball."

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