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Game 1: Red Sox 8, Angels 4
Game 2: Angels 7, Red Sox 5

Splitting headache

After Buchholz wins, Sox squander nightcap

Ervin Santana limited the Red Sox to a run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings in the Angels' nightcap victory. Ervin Santana limited the Red Sox to a run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings in the Angels' nightcap victory. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)

A year ago almost to the day, the Red Sox lost a day-night doubleheader to the Yankees, the start of a five-game Boston massacre redux that rendered the rest of the season meaningless.

With a six-run first inning in yesterday's 8-4 win over the Angels in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader, the Sox served notice that the last six weeks of this season should be worth sticking around for, for everyone. That includes Manny Ramírez, whose tiebreaking double in the eighth inning of the second game -- one pitch after David Ortiz's two-run double had erased the last of what had been a three-run Angels lead -- put the Sox three outs from a sweep.

But Eric Gagné blew the save and the game, al lowing three runs in an outing reminiscent of his two meltdowns last weekend in Baltimore. That only sowed more doubt, in the aftermath of a 7-5 loss, that the master plan to have Gagné share the late-inning load with Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima is flawed. With Gagné having allowed 14 hits and 10 runs in just six innings -- the kind of line that would have had Way Back Wasdin on the shuttle to Pawtucket -- the Sox would seem to have no choice but to contemplate whether the flaw is a fatal one.

"We had a chance to sneak one out," manager Terry Francona said. "We had it set up just the way we wanted it, and it didn't work."

The day was not without other losses. The Sox, who traded outfielder Wily Mo Peña before the first game to make room for 23-year-old pitcher Clay Buchholz, the winner of Game 1 in his big league debut, placed catcher Doug Mirabelli on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf. Mirabelli sustained the injury while running the bases in the first inning of the first game, leaving Jason Varitek to catch the final 17 innings. With general manager Theo Epstein saying that Mirabelli is expected to be out at least two weeks, the Sox summoned Pawtucket catcher Kevin Cash, who was in Ottawa and did not arrive until the second game was underway.

Ortiz, who hit his 20th home run off 15-game winner John Lackey in support of Buchholz, singled and scored the team's only run off Ervin Santana, the Angels' Game 2 starter, in the seventh inning, then delivered a gap double against closer Francisco Rodriguez. That came after Julio Lugo had boldly dashed home on a bases-loaded wild pitch that drifted just a few feet away from rookie catcher Ryan Budde. Ortiz then scored when Ramírez rifled K-Rod's next pitch into the left-field corner.

"David takes a beautiful swing, Manny follows it, the place is electric," Francona said. "But the same things that'll make you laugh will make you cry. They turned right around and did it to us."

Gagne's downfall began with an out -- Angels rookie Reggie Willits, pinch hitting for Budde, battled Gagne through 13 pitches, fouling off five in a row before flying out to Coco Crisp in center. Gagne walked pinch hitter Casey Kotchman, then gave up ground singles to Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera to bring home pinch runner Erick Aybar and tie the score at 5. Up came Vladimir Guerrero, who already had doubled and tripled and reached on one of Lugo's two Game 2 errors.

Guerrero crushed a ball to center field for another double, two runs scored, and one spectator in last night's crowd of 36,538 single-handedly gave credence to the contention made by Angels center fielder Gary Matthews that Sox fans are "loud, drunk, and obnoxious." The cretin in question hurled a plastic bottle that landed on the grass near the pitcher's mound and skipped over the dirt, well within Gagné's line of vision.

A security guard made certain that the spectator, who tried to sprint away, did not depart unpunished, flattening him with a tackle in the aisle.

Gagné's escape was better executed; he was long gone from the clubhouse before the door was opened to reporters.

There was controversy before the night came to its dissonant end. Francona and first baseman Kevin Youkilis were both ejected when their pleas that Youkilis had fouled off a two-strike pitch -- replays were unambiguous in their support of the Sox' position -- went unheeded. Francona was tossed by first base umpire Mark Wegner, who refused to render an opinion. Youkilis then got tossed by plate umpire Brian Runge, who missed the foul call.

Papelbon, who had recorded the last four outs of Game 1 to register his 29th save after Okajima had taken care of five outs upon replacing Buchholz (6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K's), said the nightcap defeat did not ruin a long day for all parties involved. It was particularly long for Varitek, who entered Game 1 in the second inning after Mirabelli was hurt running the bases on Alex Cora's RBI double, and caught 17 innings, including Josh Beckett's unrewarded seven-inning, five-hit stint in Game 2, which he left trailing, 2-0.

After Ortiz came around to score on a double by J.D. Drew (five hits in the two games) and an infield out by Mike Lowell in the seventh inning of Game 2, the Angels scored twice in the eighth off Manny Delcarmen on Guerrero's triple, Garret Anderson's sacrifice fly, and Matthews's home run, his 16th of the season.

"I feel like what [the Angels] had to run through today, I feel like we have them on the ropes," said Papelbon, adding that he will be available tonight if needed. "If this was a heavyweight fight, we've got two games left. I see the advantage in our clubhouse. That's how we have to look at it."

But Gagné could have delivered a knockout punch last night. He didn't, and it remains to be seen how much the Sox will let him carry the fight going forward.

Asked if he'd lost confidence in Gagné, Ortiz said, "You got to ask that of the manager."

He later added, "I believe in Gagné, I believe in the stuff he has." But there is reason to wonder how much that feeling is shared.

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

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