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Boston backs into a hole
10/14/2004 1:44 AM ET
NEW YORK -- The hole is deep, but the Red Sox will rely on their bats, their friendly home field and a less obvious ingredient known as their memories to try and overcome it all.

In a scenario they certainly didn't desire, the Sox trail the Yankees, 2-0, in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

That's the bad news following Wednesday's 3-1 loss to Jon Lieber and the Yankees.

The good news is that the Sox are 56-26 (including their one playoff game) at Fenway Park in 2004. And their bats, which were first quieted by Mike Mussina in Game 1 and silenced even more by Lieber in Game 2, feel as if it's only a matter of time before they come busting out.

As for the memory thing, the Sox only have to go back to last October when they trailed Oakland, 2-0, in a best-of-five series heading back to Fenway and lived to tell about it. They need that first victory to give them a chance, and the Sox will rely on Bronson Arroyo to get it on Friday night in Game 3, when he pitches against Kevin Brown.

"We've been in this situation before," said Sox slugger Manny Ramirez. "Tomorrow's a day off and we're going to enjoy it and come back Friday. We did it last year and we have to think positive."

The alternative certainly won't do them any good.

While Pedro Martinez gave it his best in Game 2 (six innings, four hits, three runs, seven strikeouts, 113 pitches), Lieber (seven innings, three hits, one earned run) was just a little bit better. Or maybe the Yankees' offense was just a little bit better than Boston's.

"I think we were overanxious early in that game," said Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We got ourselves out quite a bit. I'm not taking anything away from what he did, but I just think that as a team we got ourselves out a little bit."

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The Yankees have stifled Sox leadoff man Johnny Damon, who is normally the catalyst of the Boston offense. In the first two games, Damon is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.

"When I'm not doing my job, it makes everything a little bit tougher for our team," said Damon. "They've pitched me tough. I won't disagree with that. But I've got to get on base. It's on me. I'm the one who normally is scoring two or three times in eight at-bats. I only had one good at-bat, but I feel like there are better at-bats to come."

Lieber and the Yankees left the Sox a sizable hill to climb. The last 13 teams to win the first two games of a League Championship Series have also won the series.

If the Sox can overturn that trend, they would be the first team to reverse an 0-2 deficit in the LCS since 1985, when both the Cardinals and Royals did the trick.

More than worrying about historical trends, the Sox just want to get back to playing the type of game they're accustomed to. They need to take a minimum of two out of three at Fenway Park to get this series back to the Bronx next week.

   Pedro Martinez  /   P
Born: 10/25/71
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"We haven't played our best game yet," said Varitek. "We'll get back there, get our fans behind us and see if we can scratch one out."

Martinez, with 56,136 "Who's your Daddy?" taunting fans in his face, weathered the evening nicely. He also managed to keep the events of the night in perspective.

"I actually realized that I was somebody important, because I caught the attention of 60,000 people, plus [the media], plus the whole world watching," said Martinez. "If you reverse the time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus. And today, I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York."

Martinez came out throwing heat, but had trouble locating in the first inning. He walked leadoff man Derek Jeter on four pitches and grazed Alex Rodriguez on the arm with a pitch. Gary Sheffield capitalized, lining an RBI single in front of center fielder Damon to make it 1-0.

Then, Martinez buckled down, striking out Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams and getting Jorge Posada on a grounder to second.

"We lost this game for him," said Varitek. "He didn't lose this game."

While Martinez got into a steady groove, the Red Sox were unable to establish anything against Lieber, who took a one-hit shutout into the sixth.

The Red Sox weren't even making hard outs, as Lieber threw just 45 pitches over the first five innings.

Meanwhile, Martinez threw 91 pitches over that same span.

In the sixth, Damon worked Lieber for a 16-pitch at-bat, fouling off 10 pitches. But it ended with a line drive to center that Williams caught on the run. It added up to a 1-2-3 inning for Lieber, albeit a long one.

The Yankees created some breathing room in the sixth, as Posada worked a one-out walk and John Olerud cranked a two-run homer to right.

   Jason Varitek  /   C
Born: 04/11/72
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

"Actually, it was a it was a fastball but I wanted it away," Martinez said. "The ball cut. I didn't release it well."

Finally, the Sox were able to establish something offensively in the eighth. Trot Nixon led off with a single to right, prompting Yankees manager Joe Torre to remove Lieber after a terrific evening of work.

On came Tom "Flash" Gordon, who was greeted by a double to right-center from Varitek, setting up second and third with nobody out. Orlando Cabrera got the Sox their first run with a fielder's choice grounder to short. After Bill Mueller grounded to short for the second out, Torre went to Mariano Rivera. The ace closer did his thing, striking out Damon looking to end the inning.

Even with Curt Schilling's status iffy for the rest of the series because of his injured right ankle, the Sox seemed to still have their confidence intact as they got ready to fly back to Boston.

"It's not over by a long shot," said Sox closer Keith Foulke. "We've won three ballgames in a row several times this year. We're definitely not panicking yet. We've put ourselves in a tough spot, but we've put ourselves in a tough spot before. You've just got to go home and get some good pitching, score some runs and play solid baseball."

"See you Friday," said Mueller. "Let's go play."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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