BOSTON (AP) – Bronson Arroyo hurt Boston’s playoff chances – and his hopes of being in the postseason rotation if the Red Sox get that far.

Arroyo gave up three homers and all seven runs as the Red Sox lost to Toronto 7-2 Wednesday night and dropped one game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East with four games remaining.

Frank Catalanotto doubled, tripled and homered for the Blue Jays, who won their second straight over the Red Sox.

Boston (92-66) remained tied in the wild-card race with Cleveland Indians, who lost to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1-0. The Red Sox play Toronto on Thursday, then close with three games at Fenway Park against the Yankees (93-65).

Vernon Wells and Eric Hinske also homered, and Ted Lilly (10-11) allowed two runs, six hits and five walks in 6 2-3 innings to improve to 3-0 against the Red Sox this season.

Boston was just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and has been shut out for 9 2-3 innings by Toronto relievers.

Arroyo (14-10) hadn’t allowed a homer while winning four consecutive decisions with a 3.71 ERA in September, and had been 7-0 in the month for his career. But he gave up three homers – a season high – in the first three innings.

With the Red Sox likely to use four starters in the playoffs, Arroyo could move to the bullpen in favor of Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling, David Wells and Matt Clement. However, he could get a start if the Red Sox end the regular season in a tie that requires a one-game playoff Monday.

Edgar Renteria homered for Boston, and David Ortiz had his major league-leading 144th RBI. But Ortiz squandered another chance in the seventh when he tried to bunt to the vacant left side of the shifted infield and instead hit into a forceout.

Boston loaded the bases in the third, but Kevin Millar hit an inning-ending popout to right. With runners on first and second in the fifth, Jason Varitek hit a liner to right-center that Reed Johnson caught with a dive, saving at least one run. Millar followed with another inning-ending popup to right. The last Blue Jay to hit for the cycle was Jeff Frye, in 2001. Catalanotto’s near-cycle took advantage of every Fenway quirk: He tripled into the triangle in deep center in the first, homered around the Pesky Pole in the third and hit a two-run double off the Green Monster in the fourth to make it 7-1.

Notes: Catalanotto hit safely in his last four at-bats on Tuesday, giving him seven in a row before he grounded out in the sixth. … Renteria, who had three hits in the second game on Tuesday, homered in the first inning – his first since Aug. 21, a string of 138 at-bats. … Sidelined Boston closer Keith Foulke was in the clubhouse before the game and said he was looking forward to 2006. “After really struggling the entire year, I’m really excited about getting back to pitching the way I know how to pitch and hopefully get back to a dominating style pitcher,” he said.

He is expected to have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. … Ortiz has the most RBIs by a Red Sox player in 55 years; Walt Dropo and Vern Stephens each had 144 in 1950. Ted Williams is next at 145, and Jimmie Foxx is first with 175. … Toronto reliever Scott Schoeneweiss made his AL-leading 80th appearance.

AP-ES-09-28-05 2233EDT


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