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TIGERS 6, RED SOX 5

Sick end to series

Wells not feeling it as Sox drop finale

DETROIT -- David Wells lingered outside the Red Sox clubhouse at Comerica Park yesterday evening, recounting what plagued him during his briefest stay in a game since May 18.

''I can't hold anything down," Wells said, and though the lefthander could have been discussing a Tigers lineup that pounded him for five runs on seven hits in the first inning yesterday, and six runs on 12 hits in four-plus innings, Wells was, in fact, discussing food.

He's been sick for two starts now, continuing to pitch even as a sinus condition that has required antibiotics has zapped him of his usual vitality and appetite. Yesterday, prior to the Sox' 6-5 loss that gave Detroit two wins in this three-game series, Wells ate but lost his breakfast before it could do him any good. The resulting lack of strength was evident as he lasted fewer than five innings for the first time in 16 outings, and lost for only the second time in that span.

His day on the mound began as follows: Placido Polanco ground single up the middle. Chris Shelton single to third baseman Bill Mueller. Dmitri Young lined single to left (scoring Polanco). Magglio Ordonez bloop single over shortstop Edgar Renteria, loading the bases. Craig Monroe laced double to right (scoring Shelton and Young). Brandon Inge shuttlecock single -- a slow, soft blooper -- to right (scoring Ordonez).

Finally, on his seventh batter, Wells recorded an out, getting Vance Wilson looking at a curveball. But Connecticut's John McDonald (3 for 4, three singles) came up and dropped down a squeeze bunt. Monroe scored, and McDonald reached when John Olerud fielded the ball, turned to first base, and Tony Graffanino was late arriving at the bag.

''I wasn't expecting that in the first inning," Wells said. ''Why would you bunt when you're hitting the hell out of me?"

Wells, at long last, escaped on his 34th pitch when Nook Logan popped out to Renteria, who doubled up Inge to end the inning.

''Sometimes, if they don't know you're sick, you still have an advantage," Wells said. ''[But] I wasn't fooling anybody."

Detroit ace Jeremy Bonderman (14-9, 4.02 ERA) wasn't fooling the Sox as much as he was limiting the damage. Boston tagged him for nine hits, and he walked four, but the Sox turned that into only four runs, largely because Bonderman got three double plays.

The Sox hit into five yesterday. Kevin Millar (0 for his last 13 before an eighth-inning single) grounded into a double play with no outs in the second inning. Olerud, who'd missed the previous 13 games with a strained hamstring, hit cleanup in his return to the lineup in place of Manny Ramirez, who asked for a day off. Olerud singled twice and knocked in a run, but also grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fifth.

Graffanino ended two of the next three innings -- the sixth and eighth -- by grounding into double plays. And, appropriately, David Ortiz grounded into an infield shift to end the game on an unconventional 4-5-3 double play.

Summarized Johnny Damon: ''Double plays killed us today."

Interestingly, Ortiz was up in the same situation for the second time in as many days -- down a run, one out in the ninth, facing embattled closer Fernando Rodney (''Danger on the Field").

Tuesday night Rodney threw Ortiz three changeups among the first four pitches before Ortiz launched a 3-and-1 fastball into the night for a tying homer. Yesterday, Rodney threw Ortiz three pitches, all changeups, and the Sox designated hitter grounded the last one to the right side to begin the game-ending sequence.

And so, the Sox moved on to Anaheim, Calif., last night for a four-game set as they continue on this season-long 10-game road trip.

''I really didn't help us out too much this series," said Damon, who went 2 for 13 with two walks, a stolen base, and two runs.

He admirably stepped up and absorbed some blame for the poor series, but he wasn't alone as a struggling Sox hitter. Millar, who made the first and last outs in the Sox' seven-run 10th inning Tuesday, was 0 for 7 with a walk in the series before his late single to right yesterday.

Gabe Kapler came through in the ninth yesterday, leading off with a double and scoring on Renteria's single to pull Boston within 6-5. But, before that extra-base hit, Kapler was 0 for 11 with three strikeouts. Graffanino went 3 for 8 but hit into three inning-ending double plays in his final six at-bats of the series.

But the real issue yesterday, which Wells acknowledged, was the early crater the veteran lefty created for his offense.

''All year long you give up runs, these guys come back," Wells said. ''These guys made a run. It's tough to do it game in, game out."

Yesterday's loss was Wells's sixth (9-6, 4.70), and three of the six have come in day games. Consider the following:

In five day games Wells is 1-3 and has allowed 26 earned runs and eight home runs in 23 2/3 innings, for a 9.89 ERA.

In 17 night games Wells is 8-3 and has allowed 44 earned runs and eight home runs in 110 1/3 innings, for a 3.59 ERA.

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