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MARINERS 6, RED SOX 3

Winless in Seattle

Slumping Red Sox swept, and limp into Oakland

SEATTLE -- There's not much more left to say.

The questions are now as awkward as the answers.

David Ortiz summed it up yesterday after Boston lost, 6-3, to the Mariners to complete a three-game sweep. Big Papi said if the Red Sox don't start winning soon, ``We're going to be watching the playoffs from home."

The Red Sox started this trip almost as poorly as they ended their homestand. They have lost four of six games with three more starting tonight against the West-leading A's in Oakland, Calif.

The roster is so thin, you can almost see through it.

This is not lost on Theo Epstein.

``We're going to have to do something," said the general manager. ``We have a bunch of guys who are banged-up and they're day-to-day. We don't have a lot of guys, other than the ones who are on the DL, who are bad enough to go on the DL. But we're not going to be able to go into Oakland the way we are. We're going to have to make some moves."

It was unclear what Epstein has in mind, but he declined to say whether Manny Ramírez would be sent to the disabled list to make room for another body.

Ramírez bowed out of yesterday's game, informing Terry Francona, who was spitting blood in the manager's office during his postgame news conference (he said it was because he took one too many blood thinners), that he was too sore to play. There's no way of knowing when and if Ramírez would be well enough to play in Oakland. Then there's Wily Mo Peña's left wrist injury, the cut on Josh Beckett's right middle finger, Jon Lester's sore back, and Doug Mirabelli's jammed ankle. On and on. Little things are now big things.

Over their last seven games the Sox are hitting .184 (41 for 223) and they looked pathetic against Seattle's Cha Seung Baek, who was making his second start. Baek held the Sox hitless until Ortiz hit his 47th homer of the season with one out in the sixth.

``It's not pretty here as we head into the end of the month," said Epstein, who said he likely will turn to Pawtucket to replenish his roster. ``Everything that could have went wrong has gone wrong. We had a good record there and we can still go out there and put some wins together. There's no lack of effort. The guys are exhausted and injured and are still going out there.

``In times like these there has to be strong leadership. Tito is providing that for the players right now and I can do the same thing in the front office. We can use some of the negative events to galvanize our team," he said.

Epstein will accompany the team to Oakland.

The Sox have slipped 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees and 5 1/2 behind the Twins in the wild-card chase. There will come a time very soon when the scoreboard-watching won't matter anymore.

``I'm responsible for this," said Francona. ``I have to take responsibility to fix it. I have to make it stretch when it doesn't look like it's going to stretch."

The manager likely took too much responsibility for what's happened to his squad. He blamed himself for having to put Kevin Youkilis in left field and watching as he misplayed two fly balls in the sun that led to a run in the second inning.

``It's nobody's fault," said Youkilis. ``It was a bad sun. It could have been a Gold Glover out there and he would have had the same issues."

Francona thought the Sox were simply pressing too much because the players understand the situation. He mentioned Javy Lopez trying to turn a double play after a force at the plate in the fifth inning, when the catcher threw wild back to first, allowing a run to score.

All Francona had to throw out there was Kyle Snyder, who had allowed only one run over four innings before the floodgates opened in the fifth when Raul Ibanez highlighted a five-run rally with a grand slam to pretty much sink the Sox.

``[Snyder] started out OK but painted himself into a corner," said Francona. ``He left a changeup right over the middle of the plate to Ibanez. In a game where we get two hits, that's a big blow. We made mistakes on the bases. We tried to turn double plays that weren't turnable. The mistakes we made aren't from a lack of effort. It's from trying too hard."

Third baseman Mike Lowell, who went 1 for 4, stroking a solo homer, spoke to Francona during the game, lamenting how difficult the early part of the game was.

``There's just no flow," said Lowell. ``It seems like we're out on the field for a long time on defense and not out there long enough on offense. We're not playing defense as well as we did earlier in the year."

Asked if it's a tired team, Lowell said, ``Everyone is tired right now. It's late August. I don't think there's a team feeling fresh right now. I can't remember a game where we just got out in front and won, 8-2, or something like that. It seems we go up by a run and then the bullpen has to pitch three or four scoreless innings and we lose the lead and we can't come back."

Lowell thought it was important despite the tough times that ``we have to keep grinding. We just can't fold our tents."

``It's hard man," said Ortiz. ``But what can you do? Nothing. Just keep playing. Everything is going in the wrong direction. It's a situation hard to deal with but we have to deal with it. Everybody sees what's going on."

For the moment, nobody knows how to solve it.

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