Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 0

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TORONTO (AP)—The Boston Red Sox are on top of the American League East because of strong pitching. Their potent offense is doing pretty well, too.

Tim Wakefield pitched seven sharp innings while the Red Sox roughed up Roy Halladay, beating Toronto 8-0 Thursday night in sending the Blue Jays to their ninth straight loss.

“We like our lineup but it starts and ends with pitching” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “If you get pitching, you’ve got a chance. It sets the tone and gives you a chance to win every night.”

With Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling and Wakefield, the Red Sox are the only team in the majors to boast four starters with at least four wins apiece.

Mike Lowell homered for the third consecutive game for Boston, which has won seven of eight.

“We’re just playing good baseball, man,” Lowell said. “We’re pitching, we’re hitting, we’re playing defense. We’re clicking right now.”

Halladay (4-2) gave up eight runs, seven earned, and 11 hits in five innings on the same day Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, ending his season.

Halladay insisted he’s healthy but acknowledged having mechanical problems in his past two outings.

“A lot of guys in here are pressing right now, including myself,” said Halladay, who allowed a season-high nine runs in his previous start. “These things kind of take on a life of their own. You’ve just got to focus on your job.”

Wakefield (4-3) yielded three hits, struck out five and walked one, lowering his ERA to an AL-best 1.79.

“He’s definitely throwing the ball great,” catcher Doug Mirabelli said. “He’s going out there every day and giving us a chance to win.”

The Blue Jays’ only threat came in the first, when singles by Adam Lind and Vernon Wells and a walk to Troy Glaus loaded the bases with one out. Wakefield escaped when Frank Thomas struck out on a 2-2 pitch and catcher Doug Mirabelli completed the double play by firing to first to catch Glaus straying too far off the base.

“Once we did that, (Wakefield) settled down and was tremendous,” Francona said.

Wakefield didn’t give up another hit until Wells’ leadoff single in the seventh. Wells was erased when Glaus grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

“After I got out of the first, I kind of settled down and was able to pitch well,” Wakefield said.

Hideki Okajima pitched a perfect eighth and J.C. Romero worked the ninth for the Red Sox.

Kevin Youkilis returned to Boston’s lineup after a day off and went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

Youkilis got the Red Sox rolling in the first when he doubled to right, moved to third on Halladay’s throwing error and scored on a groundout by David Ortiz.

The Red Sox blew the game open with a six-run third, sending 10 men to the plate and stringing together six consecutive hits. Youkilis and Manny Ramirez sandwiched RBI singles around a run-scoring double by Ortiz. J.D. Drew then singled to bring up Lowell, who hit a three-run homer, his seventh.

Toronto’s skid is its longest since a nine-game losing streak between April 24 and May 3, 2002. Toronto lost a team-record 12 straight games between May 31 and August 10 in the strike-shortened 1981 season.

Toronto was shut out for the first time this season.

Notes

The Blue Jays placed RHP Victor Zambrano (strained forearm) on the 15-day disabled list before the game and recalled RHP Jaime Vermilyea from Triple-A Syracuse. RHP Shaun Marcum moves into the starting rotation and will make his first start of the season Sunday against Tampa Bay.

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