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Thumb's down: Reese, Red Sox fall

Page 2 of 2 -- Equally understandable, of course, is that no one on the Sox wants to think about what a prolonged absence by the two-time Gold Glover and instant fan favorite would mean for a team that has had one debilitating injury after another this season, with Reese hoping to avoid becoming the fifth position regular to go on the disabled list.

"He's a huge part of this team," catcher Jason Varitek said. "I love him."

Reese's injury overshadowed Sox efforts to recover from a four-run deficit in the middle game of a three-game set against the leaders of the American League Central. The Sox, shut out on four singles through the first five innings by righthander Carlos Silva, led off each of the next two innings with home runs. Mark Bellhorn cranked his eighth of the season to open the sixth, and Nixon, who had a home run taken away the night before by Twins right fielder Jacque Jones, deposited a ball out of Jones's reach in the Sox pen, his third home run since his return from the injuries that had sidelined him all spring.

But that was all the offense the Sox, who did not cash in on subsequent doubles by Varitek (in the seventh) and Garciaparra (leading off the ninth), could muster. That was not enough to overcome the little ball-big fly combination that did in Derek Lowe, who in seven innings recorded 21 outs on either ground balls (14) or strikeouts (7), easily the most whiffs he has had this season (previous high: four).

But Lowe, coming off an 11-0 combined shutout of Colorado in his last start, was done in by Lew Ford's surprise bunt in the first inning, and Torii Hunter's blast off the Volvo advertising sign in left field after Johnny Damon was unable to make a backhanded shoestring catch of Corey Koskie's leadoff double in the sixth.

A bunt with two on and nobody out in the first inning? By Sox standards, that's heresy.

"A guy who is having a phenomenal year hitting in the three hole, the last thing you expect him to do is bunt," Lowe said of Ford, the former Sox farmhand. "And he did. He put down a really good bunt."

Two ground balls hit not quite hard enough to be double plays brought home Cristian Guzman and Doug Mientkiewicz, who had opened the game with base hits. The Sox, meanwhile, couldn't avoid the double-play ball against Silva, Manny Ramirez rolling into a double play with runners on the corners and one out in the first, and Damon hitting into another with runners on first and second in the fifth, shortstop Guzman converting a tough feed from Rivas with the help of a terrific stretch by first baseman Mientkiewicz.

"The chances of this offense scoring just two runs isn't very good," Lowe said.

Much less, it seems, than the odds of another Sox player succumbing to injury.

"That's something from a team standpoint that is so frustrating," Lowe said. "Billy Mueller is on the fast track to get back. Ellis [Burks] is getting ready to come back. And now another situation where we haven't had the whole team together.

"Hopefully, [Reese] won't be out long. But if he is, we've had guys step up all year, step up and play well. I think we've done extremely well to be where we are." 

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