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Martinez relinquishes control

He's off just a little and gets outdueled

The biggest lesson of the racetrack -- i.e. there are no sure things -- was reinforced at Fenway Park last night. Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez came rolling into the game having won three straight, and having pitched 16 consecutive scoreless innings. The last time he faced the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays at home (Aug. 12), he hurled a shutout, 6-0.

But just two bad pitches were enough to do in Martinez, as the Sox lost to the Devil Rays, 5-2.

Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford deposited Martinez's second pitch of the night over the Green Monster, and Rocco Baldelli launched one to left-center in the third inning. Martinez pitched six innings, and gave up just three hits while striking out 10. But he did walk five, while throwing 113 pitches, and the bottom line is that Devil Rays rookie Scott Kazmir, who made no mistakes in six scoreless innings, won the pitching duel.

"My control was a little off all night," said Martinez (16-6). "I wasn't in my groove. I just battled and tried to stay in the game. Five walks got my pitch count up and got me out of there.

"On the homers [both on 1-and-0 counts], I wanted to get it over the plate. Crawford got one and hit it out, and Rocco got a curveball and hit it out. You tip your cap. You give credit to the rookie. He pitched a great game. My team was still a little flat from the road trip. There's nothing you can do. Just move on and get them tomorrow."

The temperature was 58 degrees at game time, and after Crawford hit his homer, it was apparent that Martinez was struggling with his control, as he walked the next two hitters, Julio Lugo and Aubrey Huff.

He mowed down the next three Devil Rays to get out of the inning, but he also walked Crawford in the second.

Martinez's stuff was sharp, but he was just slightly off the plate, throwing 44 balls during his outing. The fact that the Red Sox didn't score while he was in there didn't help, either. They had a shot in the second, but David Ortiz was thrown out at home on the back end of a double play. They had another chance in the fifth, but Kevin Millar was picked off second base.

"I don't blame my teammates for not scoring runs," said Martinez. "I just go out and do my job. I don't worry about how many runs I'm going to get. Hopefully, we won't face another rookie [the Red Sox are 0-6 against rookies they have not previously faced]. The rookies are tough on us. Hopefully, we'll face some veterans and make them pay. I don't know why the rookies have done so well against us. I have to wonder."

Martinez's performance would have been good enough to win most nights, but Kazmir was just two pitches better. "His early command wasn't what it usually is," said manager Terry Francona. "They made him work, but he only gave up two homers. If we scored some runs, we're bragging on him, and saying he pitched a great game."

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