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Support system still in place for shortstop

The frustrations of Edgar Renteria continued yesterday as the Red Sox beat the Braves, 5-2, in the final game of their weekend series at Fenway Park.

Everybody in the lineup got a hit -- except Renteria, who went 0 for 4 and saw his average drop to .239.

Renteria was 1 for 13 for the brief homestand. But the boos were louder and more frequent.

He left seven runners on base Friday night, and went 1 for 5 with two errors before being ejected Saturday night. No matter, his teammates are supporting him. When you asked the Red Sox about the victory, all seemed to offer encouraging words, including Kevin Millar, who sat out yesterday's game with a bruised foot sustained when hit by a foul ball Saturday night.

After giving an assessment of his foot injury, Millar offered a plea to the public regarding Renteria. ''Don't let six weeks of a struggle erase eight years of his success," said Millar.

Johnny Damon also praised the struggling shortstop.

''He does the little things well. He moved me over on the hit-and-run," said the center fielder. ''Those things don't show up in the box score."

Renteria walked in the first and moved to third base on David Ortiz's single to right.

In the second, Renteria struck out with the bases loaded. He did it on three pitches, a pair of sliders and then a changeup. Atlanta starter John Smoltz completely fooled Renteria, who waved at air to end the inning.

Then, with Bill Mueller on third base, Renteria fouled to first on the first pitch of his at-bat to end the fourth.

He followed that with the aforementioned hit-and-run ground out, moving Damon to second base. Damon eventually scored the go-ahead run on Ortiz's double. Renteria opened the eighth with a ground out to short.

''The guy is going to be great for us," said Millar of Renteria, a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner. ''He's a great teammate. He's been in the World Series. He's going to be OK. This is my Derek Lowe speech of 2003, Cowboy Up and get off of Renteria. Get on me because I said it. I'm not a good player, he is."

Renteria isn't playing as badly as Red Sox Nation may think, said Millar. ''I think he has been OK. We're seven games over .500. Obviously [Saturday night] he got a weak error. I should have been able to stay on the bag or I should have come off the bag for a tag. The weather's been tough. That's the way it goes. But Renteria has been fine. I think he's taken some unfair heat because that's the way it is around here."

Millar saw most of the game from the clubhouse where he was checking out his boot, similar to the one worn by teammate Curt Schilling. He noticed the booing on television. ''The guy's a player. He's always been successful. The first six weeks isn't going to tell you the whole story," said Millar. ''It's not cool to boo Edgar. I can understand if it was for a lack of effort. But it isn't a lack of effort. The guy is out there playing as hard as he can and works as hard as anybody. He's going to bring a lot of smiles to the people here over the next few years. He's a veteran, a professional, and a great player."

It isn't the adjustment from moving from the National League to the American League, either. ''The guy is not hitting .180. He's hitting around .250," said Millar. ''So what if he popped out with the bases loaded? So what? Who cares? Realistically he is a shortstop and we need him for his defense. We have enough offense. You can't expect him to come in here and hit .350 and 30 homers. That's unrealistic."

His batting averages the last four seasons for the Cardinals were .260, .305, .330, and .287 last year. In the last four seasons, he made 24, 19, 16 and 11 errors. This year he already has eight.

Add into the equation that he is being paid $10 million a year. ''That's the business side," said Millar. ''It doesn't matter what you make. I make $3 million and I [stink]. That's the business. That's the game. [Booing him] because of the salary, is that fair? Is that a reason to boo? I don't think so."

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