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Angels 10, Red Sox 4

Red Sox botch it; lead is cut to five

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As a reluctant but necessary witness to this teeth-gritting spectacle, Terry Francona might have been expected to rise slowly to his feet, push his hands into his pockets, adopt a sour expression, and confine his remarks to a prepared statement in which he said, "In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty."

But since Bud Selig had already used that routine watching Barry Bonds last weekend, the manager was on his own last night to reflect upon the numerous transgressions committed by the Red Sox in a 10-4 beating by the Angels, one that had Boston fans wishing their vehicles were not equipped with rearview mirrors.

No legalities required. Guilty as charged.

A line drive over Wily Mo Peña's head. Coco Crisp throwing a rainbow to home plate. Tim Wakefield walking the leadoff man after being handed the lead. Julio Lugo stumbling over his own feet and botching a double-play ball for the second straight night. Manny Ramírez missing another cutoff man while a run scored. Kevin Youkilis bobbling a ball, losing a chance for a force at second. Manny Delcarmen undone by two balls, one that barely made it to the mound, the other a trickle in front of the plate. Third base coach DeMarlo Hale waving Mike Lowell home with no outs and the Sox down by three. Crisp again, playing soccer in center and kicking away his club-record errorless streak.

And there they are, the New York Yankees, now a mere five games behind the Sox, the closest the American League East race has been since May 2, and a far cry from the 14 1/2 games the Bombers were in arrears back on May 29.

"I'm not surprised," said Wakefield, who didn't record an out before being dismissed in a five-run Angels fifth in which the home team sent 11 men to the plate. "They're too good a team to be playing as bad as they were. We've been playing .500 ball for the last month and a half. We've got to pick up the pace."

By winning each of their last five series, the Sox had looked like a team bent on retaining the best record in the league. But last night, as they lost for the second straight time, they stumbled badly against the Angels, who are No. 2 in the league, with a bullet. The Angels, who run at will, thrive on taking the extra base, and live to put pressure on the opposition defense, did most of their damage after the Sox seized a 4-2 lead in the top of the fifth on Doug Mirabelli's towering two-run home run, a bloop single by Dustin Pedroia, and a double by Youkilis.

"It happened in a hurry," Francona said. "The way they're so aggressive in all aspects of the game -- hitting, running the bases -- when you play them, the game is played at a fast pace. If you're not ready for it, they run you into mistakes."

Wakefield, who had won six of his last seven starts, walked Chone Figgins on four pitches to open the fifth, and Figgins immediately stole second, no surprise in a matchup of the team that has stolen more bases than any other in the league (101, two by Figgins last night) against a knuckleballer first in the league in stolen bases allowed (28).

Orlando Cabrera, a.k.a The Shortstop Who Got Away, doubled Figgins home, and Wakefield just missed on two straight pitches to Vladimir Guerrero, walking him to load the bases.

"I thought I had Guerrero struck out," Wakefield said. "The 2-2 pitch more than the next one."

Garret Anderson then hit a double-play ball to Lugo, who clumsily went to his right and failed to field the ball cleanly. E-6, bases loaded. They didn't stay that way for long, as Gary Matthews Jr. shot a ball through the left side for a two-run single. That was all for Wakefield, in his shortest outing since he was KO'd after 3 2/3 innings in a 9-5 loss to the Yankees June 1.

The Sox fared no better with Delcarmen in the game. Casey Kotchman -- who had doubled over Peña's head in the second and scored on a single by Macier Izturis, Crisp making a wasteful throw home -- followed with a ground ball to Youkilis, whose bobble cost him a chance for a force at second. Izturis then hit a chopper that Pedroia fielded and threw to the plate, too late to apprehend Anderson, and Jeff Mathis dropped a suicide squeeze that Delcarmen couldn't handle.

"That's what we were set up to do," Francona said when asked if Pedroia had made the right play in throwing home. "We were playing at a depth that if they decided to go on contact, we have a play at the plate."

The Sox tried to answer in the sixth, when Lowell singled and Crisp doubled. But Hale gambled that unless the Angels made a perfect relay, they never would get the shambling Lowell. Around here, though, to gamble legally, you have to go to Vegas; the Angels made a perfect relay and Cabrera cut down Lowell.

That was a good time to switch to replays of Bonds breaking the home run record.

"DeMarlo, as conscientious as he is, he won't sleep tonight," Francona said.

The Angels added two more runs in the seventh. Guerrero led off with a double off Julian Tavarez. Matthews doubled him home, then scored on Kotchman's double, which Crisp kicked as he was attempting to backhand the ball. He had gone 153 games (with 427 chances starting the night) without an error.

Crisp might have had a premonition it would be that kind of night when he attempted to reduce the bat rack to splinters with his bat after whiffing in the second.

The Sox generously assisted the Angels when Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Izturis singled with two outs and never stopped running on a double by Mathis, perhaps anticipating that Ramírez would air-mail his throw over cutoff man Lugo.

Matthews, who earlier took a home run away from Crisp with a leaping catch at the wall, hit a home run in the eighth off Kyle Snyder to make it 10-4.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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