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Millar in the middle of things

BALTIMORE -- Sometimes the game just finds you, and last night was one of those occasions for Kevin Millar.

In a 1-0 gem of a ballgame, the Red Sox first baseman hit a second-inning double off Baltimore starter Rodrigo Lopez and scored the only run. He threw out the potential tying run at the plate in the fourth. In the eighth he was involved in an unusual fielding play. And he was also robbed of a hit by a sensational play by Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada.

First, the ringing leadoff double that struck the left-center-field fence. "I just went up there looking for a good fastball," Millar explained. "In the first at-bat, he wants to get ahead. You figure he's going to throw a strike."

Millar turned on the pitch and ripped it off the fence. He moved to third on a combination infield single/E-6 throwing error off the bat of Jason Varitek and he scored on a Ramon Vazquez grounder to second. That turned out to be the only run Matt Clement and Keith Foulke needed.

OK, what about throwing out Rafael Palmeiro at the plate? Palmeiro was on first base with two away in the fourth via a check-swing single when Jay Gibbons ripped one down the right-field line. When Trot Nixon had a slight hesitation in picking up the ball, third base coach Tom Trebelhorn elected to send the aging slugger. Nixon heaved the ball to the infield and Millar threw out Palmeiro on the relay. It's not too often you enter a 9-3-2 in your scorebook.

"You don't get many," Millar agreed. "I'm the backup on that play. If the throw goes by [second baseman Mark] Bellhorn, it's my job to field the ball. Trot overthrew him, and I got it. You practice it, but you rarely have to do it. I threw it home, and Tek made a good tag."

Fine. Now tell us about that funky play in the eighth, when, with one out and one on, you fielded a squibber off the bat of Melvin Mora and elected to try for a tag on the first base line. You dived at him as he swerved away and first base umpire Tim Welke ruled Mora safe. That put men on first and second with two outs in a one-run game.

"It was a cue ball, and I didn't think Matt would be able to get over in time," Millar said. "But I got him on the right shoe. It was a tough call for the ump, because he saw me miss [Mora's] backside. I asked him if he'd get help."

Tim Welke did ask for help from the plate umpire. That would be Bill Welke, who indeed sprang from the same womb as Tim. He declined to overrule his brother. The threat evaporated when Clement fielded a hard comebacker by Sammy Sosa.

That leaves the Tejada robbery. Millar led off the ninth with a rocket headed for center field. But Tejada made an amazing, leaping snare that required both great lateral movement and some quality hops. "He's a great shortstop," saluted Millar. "He doesn't get enough credit for his defense because he's so good on offense."

So much for Millar's highly active evening. "It's nice to see a great baseball game like that," he said. Especially if you're in the middle of all the good stuff.

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