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Bubble bursts for Sox

Rangers rough up Martinez in sweep of doubleheader

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Streaks come and go. But some end more cruelly than others, as the Red Sox learned twice last night the hard way.

Absorbing a 1-2 punch that cost them sole possession of the best record in baseball, the Sox dropped a twinight doubleheader as the Rangers snapped a stretch of 32 1/3 scoreless innings by Boston relievers -- the franchise's longest streak in 14 years -- to win the opener before they upended Pedro Martinez for the first time in five years to clinch the nightcap.

The Saturday night massacre occurred two days after the Sox swept a day-night doubleheader from the Devil Rays back home.

"The same things that make you laugh make you cry," manager Terry Francona said. "You come to win two, you'd rather settle for one, and going home with none is not a good day."

Nothing was more striking than Martinez's futility. The night after he severed contract talks with the Sox and sharply criticized management for its treatment of him and three other premier players approaching free agency, the ace fared far worse than bullpen-bound Bronson Arroyo did against the Rangers in the opener.

The long-remarkable Martinez, who was 8-1 in 11 career starts against the Rangers and had never allowed more than three earned runs in a game against them, lacked his signature command as he surrendered six runs on nine hits and a walk to send the Sox to an 8-5 defeat before 44,598 at The Ballpark in Arlington.

"It was just my fault," Martinez said. "I didn't have it, and they got to me."

Martinez's act of misery unfolded after the Rangers snuck up on the Sox' pen in the opener, spoiling a fine performance by Arroyo in his final start before he moves to the bullpen. Arroyo, who departed with a 2-1 lead and a runner on first base with no outs in the seventh inning, watched Mark Malaska and Scott Williamson try in vain to hold the advantage as the Rangers scored three times en route to a 4-3 victory that snapped Boston's six-game winning streak.

"I was hoping it would go all year," Francona said of the bullpen's streak. "But as good as those pitchers are, you're going to give up runs."

Martinez, too, it turns out. With the Sox hungry to salvage the nightcap, Martinez lasted only four innings as the Rangers feasted on his subpar stuff, striking for a home run and four booming doubles amid the onslaught. Even Alfonso Soriano, hitting a punchless .125 (4 for 32) against the Sox ace, cranked a two-run double while the Rangers batted around against Martinez and scored four times in the third inning. Martinez threw 33 pitches in the laborious inning, contributing to his early departure after he fired 87 pitches through the fourth.

"I didn't look quite sharp for the whole game," Martinez said. "I was missing location. I made a few mistakes and those guys, as young as they are, they're pretty decent hitters."

The Sox' lineup, whose struggles largely have been offset by spectacular pitching, did little to help Arroyo or Martinez. Time and again, the Sox left runners on base and prolonged their troubling run of inefficiency with runners in scoring position.

"We just haven't been able to extend innings enough," Francona said after the opener. "That's why we're talking about a loss instead of a win."

The Sox managed to score in the first game only on Mark Bellhorn's double and Pokey Reese's single, both in the fourth inning, and Johnny Damon's double in the ninth. No one struggled more than Manny Ramirez, who struck out in each of his four trips to the plate. The Sox also spoiled two scoring chances by grounding into double plays.

The results were little better in the nightcap. After a promising start in which Damon tripled leading off the game and scored on Bill Mueller's sacrifice fly, the Sox mustered only a single run on Jason Varitek's solo shot in the sixth inning before they rallied from an 8-2 deficit with three runs in the ninth.

The Sox scared the Rangers enough in the ninth inning by bringing the tying run to the plate that Texas manager Buck Showalter summoned fireballing closer Francisco Cordero for the second time on the night.

"Maybe that helps us [tonight]," Francona said. "But it was tough for us all night until the last inning. It's a real difficult way to [try to] win."

As for Martinez, Hank Blalock homered off his ninth pitch of the game and little went well afterward for the three-time Cy Young Award winner. In addition to Soriano's two-run double, the Rangers also scored in the third on singles by Michael Young and Brian Jordan.

"I thought he was pretty strong," Varitek said of Martinez. "He just didn't have a good feel, and those guys can hit."

The Sox needed Rule V lefthander Lenny DiNardo to rescue Martinez by starting the fifth and pitching three scoreless innings before he handed off to Malaska, who was touched for two runs in the eighth.

Count Francona among those who were a bit surprised by Martinez's woes.

"Even in the short time I've been here, when you send him out there, you expect almost greatness," the manager said. "He's going to be human sometimes. He didn't locate and paid the price for it."

Martinez said his pregame routine was a bit disrupted by the short time between games (33 minutes). But he was reluctant to use it as an excuse.

"It was just a game where I made mistakes," he said, "and they made me pay for it."

In the opener, Malaska was charged with the run that ended the bullpen's shutout streak after the only batter he faced, David Dellucci, singled and scored on Blalock's sacrifice fly off Williamson. Francona summoned the lefthanded Malaska to face the lefthanded-hitting Dellucci after Arroyo nicked Eric Young in the shoulder with his 85th and final pitch. "It wasn't [the number of] pitches," Francona said of his decision to pull Arroyo. "It wasn't a fear. It's just that they had a good lefthand hitter . . . Bronson pretty much got us where we needed to be."

The Rangers scored the tying run when Gerald Laird flared a single to right off Williamson, knocking in Eric Young. The miscue proved costly for Arroyo, who otherwise surrendered only three hits and two walks over six-plus innings. Arroyo also hit Young earlier in the game. But he generally pitched well enough to win, except the Sox' offense was unable to break through against Texas starter Ryan Drese and his relief corps.

"If we put some runs on the board, we're talking about what an outstanding job he did instead of it just wasn't enough," Francona said. "He pitched really, really well."

It marked the second straight strong start for Arroyo, who will be replaced in the rotation by Byung Hyun Kim. Arroyo also held the Yankees to two runs over six innings in his last outing. All told, Arroyo went 0-1 with a 4.44 ERA in four starts.

"It's not really about me and him," Arroyo said, referring to Kim. "It's about going out and having a good performance and trying to win a ballgame for the club."

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