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Splitting headache for reliever

Scott Williamson accepted full responsibility. After giving up a decisive three-run homer to Ramon Hernandez in the seventh inning of last night's 3-2 loss to the Oakland A's, the Red Sox reliever stood before the media and pleaded mea culpa.

"I threw one bad pitch and he hit it out of the park," said Williamson, who was charged with one of three runs that scored on Hernandez's blast into the Monster seats. "I think everybody watched it."

The sellout crowd of 34,879 at Fenway Park didn't just watch. They collectively winced as Hernandez's blast left the old ballyard with as much impunity as expediency. It was disastrous for the Olde Towne Team, which not only lost the first game of this crucial 12-game homestand but dropped one game behind the A's in the wild-card race.

Williamson took the blame for that, too.

It was, after all, his split-fingered fastball that Hernandez drilled for his 17th homer of the season.

"I just threw a split-fingered that just didn't break," said Williamson.

Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in a July 29 trade, Williamson absorbed his first loss for Boston. What made it particularly disappointing for Williamson was that it ruined a fine effort by starter Derek Lowe, who had a 2-0 lead and a two-hit shutout when he departed after the sixth inning because of a blister on his thumb.

"It's disappointing any time you give up a home run," said Williamson, who inherited a sticky one-out situation from Scott Sauerbeck, who walked Eric Chavez and designated hitter Erubiel Durazo before getting the hook. "Especially when you're coming in for Sauerbeck like that trying to save his runs and you make one bad pitch and get it knocked out of the park.

"You've got to tip your hat to him, because he could've easily popped it straight up or grounded out. It was a good piece of hitting."

After the A's could do nothing but ground out or pop up in the first six innings, it was an unfortunate turn of events for Boston's bullpen.

"They have had better days than they had there in that seventh inning," manager Grady Little said. "Scott was brought in there to get those lefties out and he had trouble throwing them strikes. And then Williamson came in. The only bad pitch we had all game outside of the base on balls there was the pitch to Hernandez."

"It goes with the territory," said Williamson. "Luckily, we get out there the next day and get the job done. That's all you can do."

Williamson hoped Boston's vaunted bats would come to life and rescue the bullpen, but the Sox were handcuffed by Oakland's pen, which allowed just one runner in the last three innings.

"Obviously, you'd like the guys to come back right there, but they're doing the best they possibly can," Williamson said. "They shouldn't have been in that situation because if I make the right pitch, then we win, 2-0."

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