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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

He's the silver lining to a gloomy game

It was a dark and stormy night by the time a second set of 34,000 filed out of Fenway Park last night. A split-admission Mother's Day doubleheader -- featuring more weather brought to you by Edgar Allan Poe -- had produced one win, one loss, and two debuts by Red Sox pitchers.

Twenty-one-year-old Cla Meredith, just three days removed from Double A ball, was roughed up in his first big league appearance and some of the nattering natives no doubt wondered what the kid was doing in the seventh inning of a tie game against the Mariners.

But when all that is forgotten, it should be remembered that May 8 was the beginning of Wade Miller's Red Sox career. Miller did not get a decision in the 6-4 nightcap loss, but he looked like a future winner, pitching five hittings of three-hit, one-walk baseball, yielding a mere two runs, striking out six and consistently throwing in the 93-94 mile-per-hour range. His once-sore shoulder looked strong.

"It was a very impressive start," gushed Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. "He kept us in the game and we were all very impressed with his velocity and his stuff. It was just a good start."

Manager Terry Francona said, "I thought there was a lot to be excited about Wade's outing. And this wasn't a fluke. That's how this kid pitches."

"That's the same way he pitched in the National League," said Mariners hitting coach Don Baylor, who managed the Cubs when Miller came up with the Houston Astros. "He's a power-type guy and he's going to get some strikeouts. He didn't lose any velocity."

It would be a grand understatement to say that Miller's first Sox game was highly anticipated -- sort of like saying Paul Pierce appeared to be a little immature in the Pacers series. Not since "Planet" Al Iafrate joined the Bruins had our town read more about an athlete who'd yet to do anything for a Boston team.

And so there was plenty of focus from the fandom when Miller bounded out of the dugout and took the mound just after 5 p.m. The Sox already had won the first game, 6-3, on the strength of 5{dbcomma} serviceable innings from journeyman Jeremi Gonzalez.

It was 48 degrees and drizzly for the start of the second game (the temp at Logan Airport was 31 degrees by the eighth), certainly not a great day to make your return to the majors after more than 10 months of rest and rehab.

The first batter Miller faced in his American League career was Ichiro. Miller sawed off the Hit Machine with a 92-mile-per-hour fastball on a 2-0 pitch, getting Suzuki on an easy grounder to the right side. After retiring Randy Winn on another grounder, he caught Adrian Beltre looking at a 95 mile per hour heater for strike three.

"He had some adrenaline going in that first inning," said catcher Jason Varitek.

Miller struck out the side in the second. He started the inning by fanning cleanup hitter Richie Sexson on three pitches. Sexson (who later won the game with a grand slam off Meredith) took a couple of bad-looking swings. Raul Ibanez was next and he struck out on a 2-2 fastball. Bret Boone worked the count to 3-2, then reached when shortstop Mark Bellhorn (Edgar Renteria's finger is still sore) made an errant throw on a routine grounder. Unfazed, Miller caught Jeremy Reed looking at a two-strike curveball.

The struggling Mariners reached Miller for a pair of runs in the third. Catcher Wiki Gonzalez, who runs like a catcher, doubled over Johnny Damon's head to start the trouble. Wiki chugged into third on a one-out single to center by Ichiro, then scored on a grounder to the right side by Winn. Then Beltre turned on a 3-2 fastball and drove it off the wall, scoring Ichiro. Miller was up to 58 pitches at the end of three.

He got the Mariners 1-2-3 in the fourth. No. 9 batter Willie Bloomquist drew Miller's only walk in the fifth and stole second, but Miller stuck out Ichiro (swinging) and finished his day by getting Winn on a hard grounder to second. Ninety-one pitches, fifty-eight strikes.

"Everything felt good," said Miller. "I felt good throughout the entire game. It's good to get that first one out of the way. I feel confident with this team."

Miller is a nice gamble by general manager Theo Epstein. He's 28 years old with a lifetime record of 58-39 and an ERA of 3.87 in four-plus seasons with the Astros. He threw hard enough to suffer a frayed labrum last summer and hadn't pitched in the big leagues since June 25. Epstein signed him in December ($1.5 million base, incentives to $4.5 million) just three days after the 'Stros let him go.

It is only May 9 and the world champion Red Sox are 18-13, 2Æ games out of first place. Curt Schilling and David Wells are on the disabled list and the Sox are trying out some new talent. But despite all the bad stuff that happened at Fenway yesterday, the return of Wade Miller gave the Sox some sunshine on an otherwise dismal day at the ballpark.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.


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