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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | Personals | Yellow Pages  November 30, 2003
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Red Sox fail to score in key situations
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Things have become so desperate for Boston's loaded lineup, David Ortiz is giving Manny Ramirez hitting advice.

Understand, Ortiz is 0-for-9 with four strikeouts hitting behind Ramirez in two playoff losses to the Oakland Athletics -- but Ramirez, the team's most dangerous batter, is 1-for-8 with two strikeouts and has stranded seven baserunners.

"I keep telling him to calm down, be patient out there," said Ortiz, who hit 31 homers during the regular season with the AL's third-best slugging percentage.

Ramirez and Ortiz aren't the only ones not producing for the powerful Red Sox so far in their best-of-five AL division series.

Todd Walker, a big bright spot with four hits and three RBIs for the Red Sox in Wednesday's 5-4, 12-inning loss, went 0-for-4 with four groundouts a day later in Boston's 5-1 defeat Thursday in Game 2.

AL batting champion Bill Mueller is 2-for-9 with two strikeouts in the series and Kevin Millar is 2-for-10 with three K's.

A failure to score is a big reason the Red Sox are headed home to Fenway Park with a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five series. They desperately need to figure things out in a hurry or this team -- like so many from Boston before -- will be left to think about another year of postseason heartbreak for this frustrated franchise.

"The way things have been going all season long, I don't know what degree of disruption this is," manager Grady Little said. "It's a little uncharacteristic of our club. And now we'll be going back to Fenway and hope we can get it back on track right away, because we have no time to waste."

And all those Red Sox rooters insisted this was their year, too. With such a potent offense, they had reason to believe.

Boston led the majors in almost every offensive category this season -- batting, runs scored, hits, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases, sacrifice flies, slugging and on-base percentage. The Red Sox finished one home run behind Texas for the most homers in the majors with 238.

Eight players had at least 85 RBIs and the Red Sox broke the major league record for slugging percentage set by the 1927 New York Yankees. Six players hit more than 20 home runs.

Yet so far in the postseason, Boston can't get anything done. Pitching rules in these playoffs.

"Everybody knows our pitching is great," A's shortstop Miguel Tejada said. "That's why they're not hitting. But we can't think that they're not going to hit. They're the best team in baseball right now, and we can't go to sleep against those guys."

The Red Sox stranded 13 baserunners in the opener, and seven more in Game 2.

But it's not as if Boston's lineup has been bad against Barry Zito before this game. Johnny Damon entered the game hitting .500 lifetime against the lanky left-hander, and Nomar Garciaparra was 6-for-16 (.375) with a homer.

"Zito just stayed ahead of hitters," Millar said. "When a guy does that, it's tough to do anything."

Boston also blew it with one wild throw -- another defensive blunder to its unimpressive postseason resume.

In the second, Walker struggled to control the ball at second base, then made an errant throw while falling over that Millar didn't even touch at first base. The ball sailed past him as the A's scored two unearned runs.

"It was a momentum killer right there," Walker said. "It was my fault. I tried to make a better play than I could have. I was just trying to think of too many things to do."

While Walker's mistake wasn't nearly as egregious as Bill Buckner's infamous grounder between the legs in the 1986 World Series, it was just the latest in a long history of postseason trouble for the Red Sox.

If they don't change their fortunes soon, more could be ahead.

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