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Bet your boots they're aware

The history-defying Red Sox have touched on another crazy way to try to win their first World Series in 86 years -- by playing some of the shoddiest defense since the birth of the Fall Classic.

After committing four errors in Game 1, the Sox made four more last night to set a record with eight over the first two games of a World Series. In fact, no team had committed more than seven errors in the first two games of a World Series since the 1909 Pirates split the first two games en route to defeating the Tigers in seven games.

"Maybe four's our lucky number," manager Terry Francona said, bemused. "But I'd like to try it without it."

No one struggled more defensively last night than Bill Mueller, who made three of the four errors, tying the World Series record for errors in a game. He became the third third baseman to make three errors, joining Buck Herzog of the New York Giants in 1911 and Pepper Martin of the Cardinals in 1934. Two of Mueller's errors occurred when he bobbled grounders by Reggie Sanders in the fourth inning and Scott Rolen in the sixth. Mueller also dropped a foul pop by Jim Edmonds in the second inning while colliding with Jason Varitek, though the error could just as easily have been charged to Varitek.

Mark Bellhorn made the other error, booting a grounder by Edmonds in the sixth inning.

The Sox looked so bad in the field in Game 1 that Francona for the first time this season joked yesterday that his team's scruffy look -- long hair and beards abound -- epitomized its play.

"I think it was very appropriate," Francona said of the team's look and its defense. "It matched."

He was more forgiving after Game 2, noting the teams were playing in a cold drizzle.

"The field was horrendous," he said. "We made some errors, but I actually didn't think we played a sloppy game."

The Sox believed they had fixed their potentially "fatal flaw," as general manager Theo Epstein described the team's shaky defense before their deals at the trading deadline.

They went from committing 80 errors and coughing up 74 unearned runs in 102 games before the trades to making only 38 errors and surrendering 20 unearned runs in 60 games down the stretch. Even better, the Sox committed only two errors (by Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling) in their first 10 postseason games, before things turned ugly in the World Series.

But Epstein was not overly concerned.

"Between those misplays, we've played well, and that's not being facetious," he said. "We've played winning baseball. Sure, there have been some misplays here or there, but the other guys have picked it up."

The Sox generally agreed with the GM.

"We don't care about errors," Johnny Damon said. "The game's over. We won. We know we have to play better defensively."

Double switch
After the Cardinals twice pitched around David Ortiz with runners in scoring position in Game 1, the Sox altered their lineup in Game 2, batting Varitek fifth behind Ortiz and dropping Kevin Millar from fifth to sixth. Each time the Cardinals pitched around Ortiz in Game 1, Millar grounded out with the bases loaded. "We need to have a reason for them to pitch to [Ortiz]," Francona said. "I think Varitek is the right guy to match up with [Cardinals starter Matt] Morris, and if they want to make a change he's a switch hitter." The move paid off as Varitek followed walks to Ramirez and Ortiz in the first inning with a two-run triple off Morris . . . The Sox extended their winning streak this postseason to six games . . . They scored 17 runs in the first two games, the most by a team in the first two World Series contests since the Yankees scored 18 against the Padres in 1998 . . . Bellhorn is 7 for 19 (.368) with three homers and eight RBIs over his last five postseason games . . . Bellhorn seemed so sluggish and reserved in spring training that Francona phoned a friend, Jamie Quirk, who coached for the Rockies with Bellhorn and coached in Texas with Francona. "I said, `Give me the lowdown on Bellhorn, I think I [ticked] him off somewhere along the way,' " Francona recalled. "He said, `No, he doesn't talk.' The nickname they had for him was Mute. So I felt a little better about it. He's actually a great guy. His teammates love him." . . . Francona recalled attending a high school graduation party for his son, Nick, during the All-Star Game and not even considering that the game could give the Sox home-field advantage in the World Series since the American League won. But he did remember learning that Ramirez, who was sidelined with sore hamstrings before and after the All-Star Game, homered in the Midsummer Classic. "My thoughts that night were, how can we get this guy to play for us?" Francona said with a laugh . . . The Sox have no plans to start former Gold Glover Doug Mientkiewicz over Ortiz behind sinkerballer Derek Lowe in Game 4 Wednesday in St. Louis . . . Shortstop Orlando Cabrera was back in the lineup, batting second, after he was hit with a pitch that glanced off his left arm and into his face. "He had some blood in there, but I don't think it was awful," Francona said . . . The Sox would use a pitcher to pinch run, as the Cardinals did in Game 1 with Jason Marquis, only in a dire emergency, Francona indicated . . . Amid a cold drizzle before the game, the Sox scratched batting practice and hit in the cages. Pedro Martinez, who will start Game 3 tomorrow in St. Louis, was expected to start taking BP yesterday or today. Lowe and Tim Wakefield have been hitting for a couple of days . . . The Standells performed their hit "Dirty Water" before the game, and James Taylor submitted a soulful rendition of the national anthem. Donna Summer performed "God Bless America." 

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