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JACKIE MACMULLAN

Rookie had winning form, but wound up a tough-luck loser

NEW YORK -- The Red Sox are turned upside-down and inside-out. The ace gets rocked, while the kid bears down. The veteran implodes, while the rookie exhibits uncommon poise.

Josh Beckett can't get out of the second inning, but temporary big league call-up David Pauley goes deep into the seventh.

Yet, in the end, they both end up with the same throbbing headache: a loss to the New York Yankees.

Pauley deserved a far better fate than the 2-1 defeat pinned on him last night. The 22-year-old righthander, who two weeks ago was throwing against the Altoona Curve, the Bowie Baysox, and the Trenton Thunder in Double A, found himself on the hill at Yankee Stadium last night with the Sox in need of a decent outing from their starting pitcher.

It cannot be understated how impressive Pauley's outing was on the heels of a disconcerting effort by Beckett that raised questions about his location and left an already depleted bullpen with far too many innings to fill.

In only his second major league start, Pauley scattered eight hits and surrendered two runs, making a strong case for remaining with the big boys by acquitting himself on one of baseball's most pressure-packed stages.

``It was an amazing feeling, one I'll never forget," he said. ``It's a moment in my life that will be there for the rest of it."

In one evening, Pauley experienced everything that comes with facing the Pinstripes: the adrenaline of performing well against them, the drama of squirming out of a jam, the disappointment of being pulled from a tie game, the agony of watching someone walk in the go-ahead run, and the heartbreak of seeing Melky Cabrera's leaping grab of a Manny Ramírez home run ball that would have tied the game and gotten the rookie pitcher off the hook.

Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

``He did a good job," said Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon. ``He really didn't give us much to hit. He stayed with the sinker all game. If he keeps that game plan, he's going to be very successful."

``They say if you do well here, you can do well anywhere," mused Pauley, who will never be mistaken for Ol' Blue Eyes.

So how did Pauley get here? He says he was wondering the same thing just a few days ago. The pride of Longmont, Colo., came to the Red Sox from San Diego in the deal with outfielder Jay Payton in December 2004 but received barely a mention because of his tender age.

Pauley was on the 40-man Boston roster this spring, but his progress was lost amid more glamorous prospects named Papelbon, Lester, Hansen, and Delcarmen. Pauley reported to Double A Portland in the hopes his turn would come in the bigs someday.

That day was moved up when David Wells took a line drive off his leg. Pauley was summoned from Portland last Wednesday to Toronto, where he logged a no-decision in an 8-6 Boston win. He was tagged for all six runs on 11 hits, but was lauded for his poise and maturity in a less-than-ideal scenario for his first trip to the majors.

Of course, there's pressure, and then there's a Red Sox-Yankees series in the Bronx. Pauley agreed that his approach changed dramatically in one week.

``I was nervous, had a lot of jitters in my first start," Pauley said. ``My confidence level was up for this one. Against Toronto I kind of let the game speed up on me."

``He had to be a different pitcher," offered teammate Curt Schilling. ``If he was that same guy in Toronto, he would have gotten his head kicked in. That's not the pitcher they called up to the big leagues. This one tonight was."

Although Terry Francona repeatedly stated beforehand that he had a good feeling about Pauley and his sinker, even the manager acknowledged there was no way of telling how Pauley would react to the Bronx Zoo and the lineup of all-stars. Pauley answered that question relatively early in the game. He got Alex Rodriguez swinging at a fastball to lead off the second, and, quite frankly, made him look kind of silly doing it.

At that juncture, there was no telling how deep into the game Pauley would go, but he would always have that Kodak moment (digital, of course) to share with his children, maybe on the afternoon Rodriguez is inducted into the Hall of Fame.

There were plenty of other snapshots that offered a glimpse of the kid's mettle. When Jorge Posada roped a one-out double in the fourth, you couldn't help but look for some sign of stress. Instead, Pauley got Robinson Cano to ground out and fanned Andy Phillips.

The most telling indicator of his composure came in the fifth, shortly after watching Old Man Bernie Williams crank his third homer of the season off a fastball. That could have caused the kid to unravel, but, instead, he knocked down the next three to get out of the inning.

``When you give up a home run like that," Pauley said, ``you've got to take a step back and say, `OK, that one is out of the way. Let's get the next hitter.' "

In the end, Pauley's undoing was not a pitching play, but a ground ball. Pauley had rung up two outs in the seventh when Miguel Cairo hit a bouncer back to the mound. The pitcher couldn't snag it, and it was ruled an infield hit.

``I didn't get the glove down far enough and it scooted underneath," Pauley said. ``It's definitely frustrating. If I make that play, we're out of the inning."

Instead, Damon followed with a sharp single to left, triggering a visit from pitching coach Al Nipper to settle his young thrower and discuss pitch strategies.

Pauley, whose pitch count was at 94, then threw four straight balls to Cabrera to load the bases. Francona had seen enough and signaled for Rudy Seanez to pitch to Jason Giambi.

As Pauley watched in despair from the dugout, Seanez walked Giambi to force in the decisive run, which was, of course, charged to the starting pitcher.

Asked if he considered leaving Pauley in to pitch to Giambi, Francona answered, ``The idea is to win. But you can see how much I think of Pauley. I left him out there a long time in some tough situations."

The kid had a clear view of Ramírez's rocket in the eighth, which seemed destined to clear the wall in left-center and tie the game, 2-2. But Cabrera, in a spectacular effort, timed the play perfectly and snared the ball. Ramírez, rounding the bases, merely stopped, pulled off his helmet, and stared in disbelief.

The young Pauley did the same in the dugout. This ``temporary" call-up is truly a member of the Sox now. The pain of his New York minute will surely linger -- until the next start, which he most assuredly has earned.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is macmullan@globe.com.

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