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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | People Search | Personals | Travel | Yellow Pages  January 16, 2005
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Improved defense helps Red Sox close in on title
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Derek Lowe has been in Boston long enough to know that if the Red Sox win the World Series, no one is going to be picky about how they did it.

�It doesn�t matter how you win,� Lowe said Tuesday night after the Red Sox snapped out of their defensive funk to beat St. Louis 4-1 and move within one victory of their first World Series title since 1918. �The big thing is that we won today. And we have a chance to do something tomorrow that�s pretty special.�

The Red Sox committed a record eight errors in the first two games. Then they put a glove on designated hitter David Ortiz and moved Manny Ramirez from Fenway�s cozy and familiar left field to Busch Stadium�s spacious pasture.

Funny thing happened in Game 3: They started playing better defense.

�We played a lot cleaner game,� said outfielder Dave Roberts, one of the players brought in during the season to improve the team�s defense. �The first two games of the Series were just a fluke. We showed the way we were capable of playing tonight.�

Ramirez made errors on two consecutive plays Sunday, one of them a pratfall of an attempt to catch a sinking line drive. But he redeemed himself with a homer in the first inning of Game 3, then added a nice defensive play in the bottom half.

After catching a shallow fly ball, Ramirez cut down Larry Walker when he tried to tag up and score. Despite allowing St. Louis to load the bases with one out, the Red Sox got out of the inning with their 1-0 lead intact.

�First of all, he kept his feet,� manager Terry Francona said, unable to stifle a chuckle. �I�m laughing, (but) that was a big play; big, big play. ... Bases loaded and we come out of that inning not giving up anything. It was a big boost for us, great play.�

Boston played error-free in the field and took advantage of two St. Louis baserunning gaffes. Francona even helped out, taking Pedro Martinez out with a four-run lead after seven innings to avoid a repeat of last year�s Yankee Stadium debacle.

�I was really happy to see Manny, not even thinking about what happened at Fenway, and being able to come up with a big throw and a very good throw to put somebody out in a key situation,� Martinez said. �It was important to us and that got us going, and he hit the home run to complement whatever he was doing.�

The Red Sox led the American League in unearned runs during the season, but the gap shrunk after they dealt a hobbled Nomar Garciaparra at the trading deadline and acquired former gold glovers Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.

But the defensive gems Tuesday came from lead glovers Ramirez and Ortiz.

In the third, Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan reached on a swinging bunt and made it to third on Edgar Renteria�s double. But when Walker hit a grounder to second, Suppan didn�t run home. Ortiz took the throw from second baseman Mark Bellhorn and seemed surprised to find Suppan halfway home.

Ortiz threw to third, and Bill Mueller applied the tag to complete the odd double play.

�My teammates did the work for me, did the dirty work, played some defense, that gave us a little bit of a break in the third-inning play,� Martinez said. �And after that I just used my experience and threw strikes and got them swinging.�


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