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Down again in N.Y.

Sox lose, 3-1, head home trailing in AL series, 2-0

NEW YORK -- Hold off on the traditional postseason, red, white and blue bunting draped over the rails at Fenway for the upcoming weekend series with the Yankees. After wicked Wednesday's double-barrel blast of bad news from the Bronx, Red Sox management might want to decorate with black crepe when the American League Championship Series resumes tomorrow night at the ancient yard.

In the span of a few painful hours, Sox Nation learned that ace Curt Schilling (torn ankle ligament) might be done for the year, then watched Pedro Martinez lose again to the team he calls "daddy."

Have another shot of Absolute Trouble, Red Sox fans. And make it a double. Your New York friends are mocking you again. And there's nothing you can do about it unless the Sox turn things around.

The Yankees' 3-1 victory over Martinez last night gives New York a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series and dashes much of the rampant exuberance that's cloaked New England since the Red Sox' second-half season surge and first-round playoff sweep of the Angels. Yankee starter Jon Lieber smothered the Sox, holding them to three hits in seven innings. Martinez, meanwhile, pitched well, but was beaten by a sixth-inning, two-run homer by veteran John Olerud.

"I'm very disappointed," said Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "We haven't played well yet, but the series is far from over. We just have to get back to the things we do well. Going home to Fenway and getting a boost from the crowd is much needed right now."

Six days ago the streets around Fenway were awash in champagne and confidence as the swashbuckling Sox and fans celebrated the first-round triumph and all but demanded a rematch with the hated Yankees. It was a convention of "idiots" (their word) and it seemed the good times would carry long into the winter and beyond.

But now the Sons of Tito Francona have dug a hole of Big Dig dimension and must beat the Yankees four times in the five games or take their rightful, red-faced place alongside players on the last 85 Red Sox teams who likewise found ways to avoid winning a World Series.

Wednesday started badly late in the afternoon when Red Sox team physician William Morgan announced that Schilling has a dislocated tendon in his right ankle and will need surgery. The Sox are holding out dim hope that Schilling can take his regular turn in Game 5 Sunday at Fenway, but his uncharacteristic poor performance in Game 1 (six runs in three innings) is evidence there's something seriously wrong and Schilling said he would not return to the mound if he could not do any better.

Against this ominous backdrop, Red Sox Nation turned its eyes to Martinez, hoping he would revert to his gunslinger days and shoot down the Yankees.

The first inning was predictably eventful. After the national anthem, Martinez walked in from the bullpen as 56,136 stood and chanted, "Who's your daddy?" He watched the Sox go down, 1-2-3, in the top of the first, then ran to the same mound where he was routed while Grady Little slept in October 2003. The serenade never ceased, it seemed.

"It actually made me feel really, really good," said Martinez, in another bizarre late-night press session. "I actually kind of like it. I don't like to brag about myself, but they did make me feel important. I got their attention."

Martinez was clearly overthrowing at the start. Hat pulled down over his wild hair, which looked like black broccoli, he stared in for the signs, then threw pitches of 95, 96, and 97 miles per hour. But the anger took a toll. He walked Derek Jeter on four pitches, then hit Alex Rodriguez on a 2-2 pitch. When Gary Sheffield cracked a first-pitch single to center, the Red Sox trailed, 1-0, and Martinez had yet to record an out.

Then he settled down. He caught Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams looking at third strikes, then got Jorge Posada on an easy grounder and returned to the dugout.

He pitched well, allowing only three hits in the first five innings with six strikeouts -- four of them looking. Martinez threw 91 pitches in the first five frames and the "Daddy" chants fizzled as the game moved though the middle innings.

However, the vaunted Red Sox offense was stuck in the mud against Lieber. Never regarded as a fearsome presence on the mound, Lieber let the Sox batters get themselves out, usually early in the count. Orlando Cabrera's hard single to left was Boston's only hit in the first six innings. They had no hits and no base runners in the first six innings against Mike Mussina Tuesday.

The Sox' top offensive moment in the first six innings was a 16-pitch at-bat by Johnny Damon in the sixth. Damon fouled off 10 pitches before flying out to center.

"We were getting ourselves out," said Jason Varitek. "We're all trying to do too much."

Red Sox stat guru Bill James of Lawrence, Kan., has exhaustive data that proves that Martinez loses effectiveness after pitch No. 105. There were reports of exploding silos in Lawrence when Martinez's 106th pitch was crushed by veteran John Olerud for a two-run homer. Martinez finished the inning, but did not come out for the seventh. He pitched well, but as so often happens against the Yankees, not well enough to win. The Red Sox are 11-20 when Martinez starts against New York, including losses in 18 of 24 Martinez starts since June of 2000.

"I can't do anything if we don't score runs," said Martinez.

Don't blame Martinez. It looks like as if the Yankees did a good job scouting Boston's lineup.

The Sox finally chased Lieber in the eighth. Trot Nixon's leadoff single brought Joe Torre out of the dugout. Jason Varitek doubled off Tom Gordon to move Nixon to third, then Cabrera scored Nixon with a grounder to short. With Varitek on third and two out, the indominable Mariano Rivera got the call and caught struggling Damon (0 for 8, five strikeouts in the series) looking at strike three.

Manny Ramirez hit a one-out double in the ninth, but Rivera struck out David Ortiz and Kevin Millar.

"We'll regroup tomorrow and go home for three and see if we can get back in it," said Francona.

The last 13 teams to go down, 0-2, in an LCS went on to defeat. No team in the history of baseball has recovered from an 0-3 deficit. Safe to say that tomorrow night's game at Fenway is a must win for the Red Sox.

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