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Millar atones with a walkoff home run

The Curse at First -- reversed.

The Oakland A's were bitten Monday night when first baseman Scott Hatteberg committed a double error in the fourth inning on a night when they gave up nine unearned runs and were routed by the Red Sox. Last night, Sox first baseman Kevin Millar committed two costly errors, leading to A's runs in the first and seventh innings.

But in a classic reversal of fortune, Millar belted a walkoff homer in the ninth, a line drive that cleared the Green Monster, for a 3-2 victory before 35,644 on a light-jacket night at Fenway. Millar's blow, with David Ortiz (walk) aboard, came on a 2-and-2 fastball from Octavio Dotel, who blew a save for the third time in nine opportunities.

"I don't have a lot of ability, but I'll give everything I've got," said Millar after his first walkoff homer for Boston.

Before Millar's blast, the Sox had mustered only four hits against a tough foursome of Kirk Saarloos (five innings, one run), Huston Street, Ricardo Rincon, and finally Dotel, who gave Millar what he wanted: a steady diet of fastballs before the meatball.

"It was definitely the Kevin Millar show tonight," smiled Sox manager Terry Francona. "He was involved in every aspect of that ballgame."

Millar, who stroked his first home run of the season Monday night, said he watched the ninth-inning at-bats of Manny Ramirez (strikeout) and Ortiz and noticed nothing but fastballs. He thought to himself, "Please throw me a lot of fastballs."

"You would love to hit a home run in that situation," said Millar, who was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before the at-bat. "He got a 2-and-2 fastball over the plate and I hit it hard."

The Sox got another strong outing from starter Bronson Arroyo, who went 6{dbcomma} innings and allowed only three hits and one earned run. They won for the 15th time in Arroyo's last 16 starts. Alan Embree and Matt Mantei got the last seven outs, with Mantei (1-0) picking up the win.

Three of the Sox' five hits came from the sizzling bat of Johnny Damon, who knocked in Boston's first run and reached base four times.

And the A's, hopeless in the field Monday, got a spectacular defensive play from Eric Byrnes, whose fully extended dive to snare Trot Nixon's liner to left in the fifth prevented a bigger inning by the Sox.

Conversely, Millar's defensive woes began early.

''So defensively, we were pretty sound tonight," kidded Millar.

In the first inning, he backhanded Erubiel Durazo's ground ball on one knee, then made an off-balance, off-line throw to the plate as Mark Kotsay scored the first run. Kotsay had walked and moved to third on Eric Chavez's single.

Arroyo was able to recover by retiring Bobby Kielty and Hatteberg, keeping the damage minimal.

"I was unsure whether to go to second, tag first, and I saw Kotsay," said Millar. ''If I make a good throw, we have him. The one-knee throw to home probably wasn't the right decision. It's one of those aggressive plays. It was a stupid play."

Arroyo likewise made a questionable choice himself in the seventh on a nubber back to him by Adam Melhuse with runners on first and third. Arroyo first looked to third, trying to hold the runner, and threw to first. But Millar, in the ruling of first-base umpire Brian Gorman, was not on the bag. Kielty broke from third, and Millar's throw was late. He was charged with his second error and the Sox fell behind, 2-1.

"As soon as he hit it, I knew I didn't have time to turn a double play," Arroyo said. "So I was looking for a pause [by the runner], take the out at first, and play for the third out. He took off as soon as I turned my head."

"Bronson looked him back," said Millar, ''but he looked him back quick, and as soon as I saw it, that's the guy I wanted. I don't know if I had my heel on the bag or not because I was worried about getting the guy at home."

Arroyo (3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last five starts) is part of a Sox starting staff that is 8-0 with a 2.90 ERA over the last 11 games. He exited to a standing ovation after another quality start, though he said he didn't feel as "locked in" as he did in his last outing, when he took a no-hitter into the seventh at Detroit in an eventual 2-1 win.

"I was very uncomfortable on the mound for the first four or five innings," said Arroyo. ''I walked a couple of guys on breaking balls that I should have thrown over the plate. As the game went on, I felt I was going to get out of that jam [in the seventh], no doubt, without giving up a run."

The bullpen pitched well, too, basically holding the status quo in hopes of getting late-game heroics. In hopes of reversing the Curse at First.

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