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ATHLETICS 5, RED SOX 4

Sox don't have 'A' game in extras

Oakland gets to Tavarez for pair in the 11th

The first single, bounced off the Green Monster, made about as much of an impression on the venerable Wall as it elicited a peep from the remainder of the 36,141 at Fenway Park as the clock drew toward midnight. The second single, just past Mike Lowell at third, elicited more than a peep. That garnered boos, aimed at Julian Tavarez.

The win Sox fans assumed would come over the Oakland Athletics last night if they stayed long enough wasn't to be. Though David Ortiz, master of such magic, was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the 11th, Tavarez -- who entered after a one-inning, two-hit, 18-pitch stint from Jonathan Papelbon in the 10th -- had already allowed two runs in the top of the 11th, sending the Sox to a 5-4 loss that left the faithful disappointed, and probably a little tired at work today.

``When it's tied like tonight, it can go either way," Tavarez said. ``Any little mistake, you can lose the game. I made a mistake and I walk away with the loss. But I don't put my head down."

Sandwiching a Wall double to Jason Kendall off a hanging changeup between a strikeout looking and a strikeout swinging, Tavarez allowed those two singles, to Bobby Kielty and Frank Thomas, before getting Jay Payton to ground out to end the inning two batters too late.

``I missed the location," Tavarez said of Kielty's hit, off a slider that didn't have much movement. ``I paid for that. I catch too much of the plate."

The Sox got one back in the home half of the 11th, courtesy of a Gabe Kapler walk, a bit of defensive indifference, and a Jason Varitek single up the middle, all coming after sluggers Ortiz and Manny Ramírez each had found third baseman Antonio Perez, on a foul pop and ground out, respectively. But that was it as Lowell's comebacker to the mound ended it.

Yes, it was Tavarez who took the loss, but two other plays, by veterans Mark Loretta and Willie Harris, turned the momentum in favor of the A's.

Trot Nixon walked to open the bottom of the ninth and it appeared another comeback was in the works. Harris pinch ran and with Varitek at the plate, manager Terry Francona put on the hit-and-run. Except Harris got picked off first, officially the old 1-3-6-1-4 caught stealing.

``Sometimes you wind up trying too hard," Harris said. ``I wasn't leaning at all. I thought [Kiko Calero] balked, personally. Obviously, the umpire didn't think he did. So it was a caught stealing. He did some kind of funky move and it worked out for him."

And that play wasn't even the one that hurt most.

With the combination of Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen providing some sweet relief -- Delcarmen had not allowed a run in his past seven outings, and Hansen had lowered his 6.35 June ERA to a 3.00 mark in July -- Francona tried the pair again last night in relief of Jon Lester, but the ending wasn't quite as sweet.

Lester had left with a 3-1 lead after five trying and time-consuming innings, entrusting the fifth win of his young career to his fellow ex-PawSox. But though Hansen began his stint with a scoreless sixth, he -- and Loretta -- couldn't quite master the seventh.

Perez, who entered the game at a robust .091, singled to open the inning, followed by a single by Kendall. After a ground out to shortstop, Delcarmen replaced Hansen, only to give up two runs on just the fourth error of All-Star Loretta's season.

``I just flat out missed it," Loretta said. ``I took my eye off it to see if the runner got a good jump. I was probably trying to do too much there. But it was a severe lapse. That hurt us . . . I took my eye off it for a second and when I went back to it, it was gone."

It should have been the second out of the inning. Instead, Kielty's grounder bounced off Loretta's glove and into right field, scoring Perez and Kendall, one run earned, one unearned. Either way, the game was tied, 3-3.

Not including his major league debut -- a 4 1/3-inning, three-run stint June 10 -- Lester has given up nine runs over six starts, though he has never gotten an out past the sixth inning, a trend that continued last night as he allowed five hits and five walks.

But despite those 10 base runners, the only time the lefthander couldn't keep Oakland off the scoreboard was when Nick Swisher sent the fifth pitch of the third inning just over the Green Monster. No way to combat that one, the letter-high fastball a touch outside, and then out of the ballpark.

Lester has worked his way out of numerous jams in his young big league career, his 35 hits, 25 walks, and 3 hit batsmen making 63 base runners of his own doing, not including those reaching on errors by his mostly stellar defense. That's 63 in 37 1/3 innings, and only nine have crossed the plate. Entering the game, opponents were batting .207 against Lester with runners in scoring position, .133 with two outs and runners in scoring position, and .000 (0 for 8) with the bases loaded.

``Lester has a way of wiggling out of trouble, which is good," Francona said. ``Double plays, making pitches. On the other hand, because of the deep count and falling behind hitters, he's at 103 [pitches] after five [innings], so you are asking a lot of your bullpen. When they have to go four, five, six innings, that is a lot to ask. You lose the ability to mix and match a little bit and guys have to stay out there.

``If anybody has a hiccup, you're running into problems."

Just ask Julian Tavarez.

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