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Ramirez's gaffes turn into laughing matter

So what does a team do after it makes four errors in its first World Series game in 18 years and lives to tell about it?

If you're the Sox of '04, you have a few good laughs, that's what.

And if reserve outfielder Dave Roberts is to be believed, the Sox didn't even wait until Keith Foulke registered the last out of last night's 11-9 win before the hilarity began.

"We were laughing during the game," Roberts said after the Sox survived hideous throwing errors by first baseman Kevin Millar, pitcher Bronson Arroyo, and back-to-back misplays by Manny Ramirez in left field. Ramirez's blunders came in the eighth inning, when the Cardinals rallied to tie the score at 9.

"That's this team," Roberts said. "We were laughing at him during the game. That's why this team is so special. There's no reason to get down on a guy for trying. He was just demoted from silver to bronze to green glove, that's all. What are you going to do?"

Ramirez, who will own a Gold Glove only if he mints it himself, overran Edgar Renteria's ground ball single in the eighth, allowing pinch runner Jason Marquis, who had stopped at third, to score, just barely beating Ramirez's belated throw to the plate. Marquis, who was running for Mike Matheny after the Cardinal hit a one-out single off Mike Timlin, already had had a previous adventure on the basepaths, losing his balance and staggering into second base advancing on a bloop single by pinch hitter Roger Cedeno, hitting off Alan Embree.

Larry Walker, the St. Louis right fielder who already had four hits in the game, including a home run and two doubles, then flared a fly to left and Ramirez appeared to be in position to make a routine running catch. But inexplicably, a Manny moment: Ramirez went into a popup slide, caught his spike, and missed the ball. Just like that, the lead the Sox had fashioned the inning before on singles by Ramirez and David Ortiz was gone, and Foulke had his first blown save of the postseason, though if the rules allowed it, the official scorer could easily have hung it on Ramirez.

But when the normally sure-handed Cardinals committed only their second error of the postseason, Renteria pinned with a tough error when he went to his backhand and couldn't come up with Jason Varitek's bouncer, the Sox capitalized, Mark Bellhorn hitting a home run off Pesky's Pole for the deciding runs. Ramirez was off the hook.

"I caught my shoe," said Ramirez, who has always appeared a candidate for catching a spike on pant legs that droop to sea level. "But I shouldn't have made a dive for that ball. If I keep running, I catch that ball very easy there."

For a moment, center fielder Johnny Damon said, he was concerned that Ramirez had injured himself.

"Fortunately, he just dropped it," Damon said. "From my angle, his foot got stuck in the ground. It looked to me like he'd hyperextended his knee. I thought there was a chance he could go down for the rest of the series. But he's OK."

Damon's prognosis was confirmed by Ramirez.

"Thank God everything is fine," he said.

The beauty of Ramirez in the Sox lineup is his capacity to outhit his mistakes. Last night, after not driving in a run in the ALCS, Ramirez was credited with two RBIs, one on a fielder's choice in the Sox' three-run third, the other with his seventh-inning single to center.

"For me, it doesn't matter, man," he said when asked about the breakthrough. "I could go 0 for 10 or 0 for 15, but I know I'm the champ, I can do the job anytime."

Earlier in the game, the Sox had played giveaway twice, when Millar never got a grip after cutting off Trot Nixon's throw to the plate and made a hideous toss to third base in the fourth, helping the Cards cut a five-run deficit to 7-5, and reliever Arroyo had made an off-balanced heave on So Taguchi's tapper to the right of the mound, allowing Taguchi an extra base before scoring on Renteria's double.

But Bellhorn made it academic with his third home run in his last three postseason exercises.

"That's what teammates are for," Ramirez said. "To pick you up."

When they're not laughing at you. "My main concern was that he was OK," Roberts said. "Once we found out he was, then we started joking."

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