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Millar is positively baffled by negativity

He finally reached his boiling point. One of the most unflappable members of the Red Sox, Kevin Millar yesterday joined a legion of teammates who believe much of their fandom and the media are messengers of doom driven by the team's tortured past. He aired his concerns amid the fallout from Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the A's.

"It baffles me that all the media and all the fans want to bash the Red Sox in August," he said, before the Sox suffered another crushing defeat, 8-6, last night to fall two games behind the A's in the AL wild-card race. "There's a lot of baseball left. There are going to be negatives, but why not jump on this team's back and have fun with it and pull for this team and write good things about this team, because when this team is in the wild card or [wins] the division title, this is going to be a fun team to root for."

Don't misunderstand him. "I love this team and I love this city," Millar said, "but some of the things you see and read, it's like, `Uncle, turn the page.' It's a new team. It's 2003."

He has sensed an exodus from the Sox bandwagon as the gap has widened between them and the Yankees in the American League East. And he knows the team's long of history of late-season disappointments has factored in it.

"I want to see somebody cowboy up and stand behind this team one time and quit worrying about all the negative stuff and talking about last year's team and 10 years ago and 1986," he said. "I don't know any better, man. I'm here to win and have fun. [The past] makes zero sense to me."

Three things particularly rankled Millar in recent days: a group of television commentators writing off the team, a postgame television analyst suggesting Derek Lowe should have tried to go deeper in Tuesday's game despite a finger blister, and several callers to a radio show describing the Sox as inferior to the Yankees during an appearance by Millar.

"I wouldn't play anywhere else but in Boston," he said. "I appreciate the passion. It doesn't bother me at all. It might affect other guys on this ballclub, but this is my kind of city. The only thing I have to remind people is that there are [36] ballgames left. Take your Yankee stuff and go have fun with the Yankee stuff and watch the Yankees win and all that stuff. It's irrelevant."

In the end, he boldly predicted, the Sox will prevail. "We're here to win and have fun," he said. "This [team] is going to do it, and you guys are going to be standing here in October and saying, `Wow, what a run.' "

Silent approach

Count Lowe among those who have had enough. Clearly perturbed by the reaction to his blister, Lowe followed the lead of the team's big three -- Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Pedro Martinez -- by placing restrictions on his availability to the media. From now on, he said, he will share his thoughts only on the days he pitches. He had contemplated curtailing his public statements at least since last week, when he received some backlash for raising questions about his treatment by the media and fans. "I can't take anymore of this [stuff]," he said yesterday.

In one of his final statements before adopting his code of silence, Lowe said he expected to take his regular turn in the rotation Sunday against the Mariners.

As for Lowe's blistered right thumb, manager Grady Little said the team's trainers have regularly treated the thumb between each of his starts. A similar blister forced him out of a game June 8 against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Safe, then out

Damian Jackson, who started at second base for the fourth time in six games, was forced out of action after he sprained a ligament in his left middle finger diving into second base on a two-run double in the third inning. He gave way to Todd Walker, who had been scheduled to return to the starting lineup tonight. Jackson is day-to-day . . Garciaparra, who collected his 1,200th career hit in the ninth inning, is on pace for a career-best 215 hits . . . The Sox lost for the seventh time this season when they have led after the seventh inning . . . The A's bullpen has not allowed a run over its last 14 2/3 innings. The A's tied the Sox bullpen with their 24th win of the season. The Sox relief corps dropped to 24-24 . . . The numbers support Scott Sauerbeck's assertion that he pitches better with no rest. His ERA in the 16 games in which he has worked without rest this year was 2.68 (six runs in 20 1/3 innings) while his ERA when he has rested at least a day between outings was 5.13. Pitching on five days' rest Tuesday, Sauerbeck walked two of the three batters he faced, setting the stage for Ramon Hernandez's decisive three-run homer off Scott Williamson . . . The Sox will get their first glimpse of Oakland's 21-year-old righthanded phenom Rich Harden tonight after the A's pushed back Tim Hudson's scheduled start until Sunday in Toronto because of lingering soreness in his right hand. He was struck by a line drive Saturday in Oakland. Harden (3-2, 3.00 ERA) will face Pedro Martinez, who will make his first start at Fenway since his complete-game, 4-2 victory Aug. 6 over the Angels . . . Oakland lefthander Mark Mulder, diagnosed with right hip tendinitis, flew to Arizona for physical therapy . . . The Sox topped 2 million in home attendance in their 60th game of the season at Fenway, their quickest ever to 2 million.

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