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Sox suffer nightmare second
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10/02/2003  5:28 PM ET 
Sox suffer nightmare second
Wakefield's wildness, errors haunt Boston
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Tim Wakefield gave up five runs, three earned, in the second inning Thursday. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
OAKLAND -- The sun broke through an overcast sky in the second inning Thursday afternoon and promptly cast a dark shadow on the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

The AL Wild Card team needed a pick-me-up in the worst way after losing Game 1 on a bases-loaded bunt single in the 12th inning at Network Associates Coliseum. But what they got was a nightmarish five-run Oakland haymaker that included a walk, passed ball, single, hit batter, double that might have been lost in the sun's glare and an error that had nothing to do with the weather.

The Red Sox never recovered and absorbed a 5-1 loss to the AL West champion Athletics that sent the Red Sox back to Boston in a two-games-to-none bind in the best-of-five series.

Blame Thursday's loss on one really bad inning.

The most productive offensive inning of the series began when Jose Guillen worked Tim Wakefield for a walk and scooted to second when a high knuckleball eluded Doug Mirabelli's glove for a passed ball.

Ramon Hernandez, who drove in Oakland's final run of Wednesday night's thriller with a surprise bunt, drove in the Athletics' first run in Game 2 with a solid single to right field. Jermaine Dye was hit with a pitch, turning up the heat on Wakefield and the Red Sox.

Just as ninth-place hitter Eric Byrnes came to bat, the sun came out, and moments later, Byrnes hit a ball to left field that Manny Ramirez seemed to momentarily lose.

The ball sailed over Manny's head and caromed off the wall, bouncing back towards the infield, allowing both runners to score and put the Athletics ahead by three runs.

    Todd Walker   /   2B
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 181
Bats/Throws: L/R

More info:
Stats
Splits
Hit chart
Cubs site

After a grounder to first base advanced the runners into scoring position, Eric Chavez hit a hard ground ball between first and second base. Todd Walker got to the ball, fumbled it as he fell to the ground, and then bumbled it big-time with a wild throw past first baseman Kevin Millar.

Two runs scored and the sun slid behind the low clouds.

When the Athletics finished batting, they had scored five runs on only two hits and left-hander Barry Zito clicked into the 2002 Cy Young Award mode and dazzled the Red Sox hitters with sharp-breaking curveballs, a nasty changeup and fastball that seemed faster than it really was.

That one awful second inning could have been the difference between the Red Sox going home tied in the series and feeling confident, and going home on the brink of "wait 'til next year" -- for the 95th consecutive year.

"I just couldn't stop the bleeding quick enough," said Wakefield, who was stellar in the other five innings he pitched. "I battled as hard as I could in that inning, but I couldn't find the strike zone."

Catching a knuckleball is the most difficult chore for a catcher.

    Tim Wakefield   /   P
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 215
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Red Sox site

But understanding what it does, and why it does it, also is a mystery. Wakefield was at a loss trying to figure out why the pitch was so good most of the game, and so unreliable in that one inning.

"Usually, my ball moves up to down," he explained, "but for some reason in that inning, it was moving into the right-handed hitters. I can't explain why that happened. Maybe my release point was off."

Something definitely was out of kilter, but he still could have gotten out of the inning with one run being scored. That would have happened if Ramirez had caught Byrnes' drive and second baseman Todd Walker had fielded Eric Chavez's hard grounder.

"I didn't think (Byrnes) hit the ball that good," Wakefield said. "But I made a mistake by leaving the pitch up."

Ramirez, who doesn't explain plays, at-bats or anything else to the media, didn't comment. But center fielder Johnny Damon said it was a tough play, made tougher by the elements.

"The sun was right in Manny's face," he said, "and there was a lot of wind out there. This is one of the worst sun-fields in the league. I'm not exactly sure what happened on that play, but it looked like he got turned around a little bit."

Wakefield struck out Erubiel Durazo for the second out of the inning, but a hard grounder to Walker went from being the third out to the fourth and fifth runs.

"The ball didn't stay in my glove and I panicked a little bit," Walker said. "I probably should have just held onto the ball and let one run score. But I tried to make a play and made a bad throw."

Now, it's back home to the friendlier confines of Fenway Park. Do you believe in miracles?

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League baseball or its clubs.



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