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YANKEES 7, RED SOX 3

A dull headache

Red Sox lose a snoozer as Lowe struggles to regain form after 10 days of rest

If they were all as devoid of drama as this one, the market for books, movies, musicals, T-shirts, and commemorative pins about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry would dry up overnight.

Few baseball games in April can possibly live up to the buildup these have gotten, of course. So maybe it was only fitting that the last pitcher of the day for the Red Sox in yesterday's 7-3 loss to the Yankees was Frank Castillo, whose reward for extending Alex Rodriguez's 0-fer weekend was to be outrighted to Triple A Pawtucket after the game.

That's about as soul-stirring as the day would get, on an afternoon Red Sox starter Derek Lowe, working on 10 days' rest, reacted as if he'd never seen a mound before, failing to get out of a third inning in which the Yankees scored six times on six hits and a walk.

"Baseball is a feel game," said Lowe, who insisted he didn't want to use the extended layoff as an excuse but found no other way to explain his dreadful outing. "It's like the first time a New Englander goes out in the spring and golfs. It's not going to be the game he knows.

"That's why I'm not coming away as frustrated as maybe people think I should be, because I know that in my next game, Friday night [in New York], you're going to see a different guy."

That's of little comfort to the 35,011 at Yawkey Way yesterday who watched Lowe walk two batters in the first, another in the second, and allow five straight Yankees to reach base in the third, the first when Rodriguez, after falling behind 0-and-2, drew a base on balls. Jason Giambi lined a single off the Wall, Gary Sheffield shot a ground-ball double into the left-field corner, Hideki Matsui lined a 2-0 pitch to left for another hit, and Jorge Posada grounded another double into the corner.

"I got a check sitting in my locker," Lowe said, talking about his forced inactivity. "I feel like I should give it back. This is a situation unless you play the game and you've been in this situation, it's hard to explain. People think I should feel really strong after 10 days off but that's not how it works. I'd rather pitch on three days' rest than 10 days' rest."

Sox manager Terry Francona, who made the decision after two rainouts last week to skip Lowe's turn, took the rap. So did pitching coach Dave Wallace. "I should have found him an inning or two to throw between starts," Wallace said.

Yankees starter Jose Contreras was just as uninspiring, failing to survive the Sox' half of the third, when Joe Torre was forced to turn to his bullpen after Manny Ramirez's two-run double, a walk to Kevin Millar, and a wild pitch to the next batter, Ellis Burks.

Rodriguez made a nice stop of Burks's grounder to third and threw out Ramirez at the plate and Yankees first baseman Travis Lee, making his first appearance of the season, quashed the threat by spearing Jason Varitek's bid for a two-run, two-out hit, his flip to reliever Paul Quantrill just beating the Sox catcher to the bag. Boston went quietly thereafter, mustering just three singles against four Yankee pitchers.

"It wasn't a smash, but I hit it pretty good," Varitek said of the play made by the lefthanded Lee, who sprawled in the dust to grab Varitek's grounder down the line. "He made a nice play.

"I felt we were going to get right back in it, but we just weren't able to put together another big inning."

The Sox pen did superb work as well, lefties Mark Malaska and Phil Seibel combining for six scoreless innings and Castillo recording the last out on Rodriguez's fly to center, ending A-Rod's third straight 0-for-4 performance. Rodriguez is now 3 for his last 33 at Fenway Park, dating back to August of 2002.

"They put up a lot of zeroes," Francona said of his pen. "We didn't mount a whole lot of threats, but at least we got a couple of guys on and made them use some pitchers. It didn't get away from us."

Last season, when the Sox and Yankees met a record 26 times, including seven in the ALCS, 11 of the games were decided by two runs or fewer, including four of the last five meetings. So far this weekend, all three games have been decided by three runs or more, and there has only been one lead change, when the Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first yesterday on singles by Bill Mueller and Ramirez and a double by Millar. The Yankees tied it in the second on Posada's walk, Lee's single, and Derek Jeter's RBI single, then broke it open the next inning.

"We know we can hit," said Torre, whose club did a nice job of taking Lowe the opposite way and now can leave town with a split of the four-game series if it wins today's Patriots Day special. "Today was a big win for us. But I know it's April and we don't want to make too much of it." 

In Today's Globe
LATEST RESULTS
Thursday RHE
Blue Jays 7 14 0
Red Sox 3 10 0
WP: Adams LP: Schilling
 Box score   Log   Scores
Fri: vs NYY (7 pm)
TV: Ch. 38 Radio: WEEI 850-AM
Starting pitchers:
BOS: Lowe NYY:Contreras
 Complete schedule
AL EAST STANDINGS
  W L Pct. GB
Baltimore 9 5 .667 --
Boston 9 6 .643 0.5
New York 8 8 .500 2.0
Tampa Bay 6 8 .400 3.0
Toronto 4 11 .267 5.5
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UPCOMING SCHEDULE
APRIL
Tue Wed Thu Fri
20
@Tor
W,4-2
21
@Tor
W,4-2
22
@Tor
L, 7-3
23
@NY
7 pm
Ch.38
Sat Sun Mon Tues
24
@NY
1 pm
NESN
25
@NY
1 pm
NESN
26
OFF
27
Tam.
7 pm
NESN

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