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TWINS 5, RED SOX 4

Sox, Lowe can't stay the course

MINNEAPOLIS -- Their names had been inextricably intertwined for days: Derek Lowe and Nomar Garciaparra. One of them, maybe even both, seemed likely to change addresses before yesterday's trading deadline. So when Lowe arrived for work to discover the Red Sox already had traded Garciaparra, he was in no rush to slip into his uniform.

He figured he might be next. He already had arrived much later at the park than usual for a game he was scheduled to start, staying at the hotel and watching sports on television, figuring his chances were "50-50" of moving on.

"People can say, `Don't let those things affect you,' " he said. "I understand it's part of the business, but the uncertainty of where you're going to be the next day or today, it's a little unsettling."

Once he hugged Garciaparra farewell, Lowe sat at a table not far from the door, still unsettled.

"Maybe I'm going to LA," he said. "That's why I don't change [clothes]. I'm going to sit here a little bit."

Only after time passed and he "hadn't gotten the tap on the shoulder" did it strike him: Seven years to the day after the Sox all but stole him with Jason Varitek from the Mariners for Heathcliff Slocumb -- and nearly a week after he began growing increasingly anxious about his future -- Lowe learned he was sticking with the Sox after all. At least for the rest of the season.

"The fact that they ultimately decided to keep you for the stretch run," he said, "is a sign of confidence that they believe in you and that you're going to help this team."

He did his best to thank them, taking a 4-4 deadlock into the eighth inning against the Twins after surrendering a tying home run to Michael Cuddyer in the seventh. But Alan Embree was unable to support Lowe as he let Jacque Jones jolt a 92-mile-an-hour fastball with one out in in the eighth inning for a decisive home run as the Twins prevailed, 5-4, before 40,283 at the Metrodome.

While Embree regretted his misplaced fastball to Jones, he was heartened by Lowe's longest outing (7 1/3 innings) in 21 starts this season.

"I think he's happy he's still here, and we're happy he's still here," Embree said. "He's an important part of our rotation, and if he pitches like he did tonight, he's going to win a lot of ballgames."

Lowe, who general manager Theo Epstein predicted would be the biggest beneficiary of the Sox acquiring two former Gold Glovers (first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins and shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Expos), surrendered four runs on eight hits and three walks before Embree took the loss, falling to 2-2.

"He looks like he feels better about himself," manager Terry Francona said of Lowe, who survived a rocky start to the season and the pressure of the trading deadline. "We're going to give him the ball the rest of the season, and I think we're going to get paid off for that. I really think it's going to pay dividends for us."

The Sox had a chance to prevent the defeat in the ninth inning when the newest member of the team, Mientkiewicz, singled leading off against his former teammate, closer Joe Nathan. But the Sox, who were keenly aware that Nathan had converted 28 of 29 save chances, gambled that Gabe Kapler, running for Mientkiewicz, could steal second and set up a scoring opportunity.

"We were going to run the first guy that got on," Francona. "It didn't work, but I still think it was one of our better opportunities to score."

Kapler said he got a good jump on the pitch. But catcher Henry Blanco gunned him down.

"I felt like I had a pretty good chance," Kapler said, "but he got a great pitch to throw on and made a great throw."

The Sox mustered a final opportunity when Bill Mueller laced a two-out single to right field and advanced to second on a wild pitch. But Nathan fanned Kevin Youkilis on a 98-m.p.h. heater to preserve the victory and force a split of the first two games of the series. Pedro Martinez will try to clinch the series for the Sox today when he goes against Twins ace Johan Santana.

As for Lowe, he handled the Twins fairly well considering his personal tumult.

"If this was a situation where it was your third or fourth team in the last seven years, it may not affect you that much," Lowe said. "But knowing this is really your only organization at this level, it made it a little tougher. "I think I'll look back on this year and will have learned so much," Lowe said. "From the way I started to the uncertainty of getting traded, there have been a lot of things that I feel are definitely going to help me for years to come."

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