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Same, sad Foulke song

Red Sox closer gives it up to Rangers in ninth

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Keith Foulke says when he's out in public people call him Kevin (Faulk). Maybe that's because the diminutive Patriots running back might be a better choice right now to close games for the Red Sox.

Yet another Foulke disaster occurred at steamy Ameriquest Field last night as he blew a 5-4 lead in the ninth, allowing the winning run on Kevin Mench's first-pitch RBI single to left with the bases loaded in a horrifying 6-5 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Foulke's teammates and manager Terry Francona continue to support the embattled closer, but how long can they remain patient?

''He's going to get through one of these and that's going to be the end of it," said Sox captain and catcher Jason Varitek. ''He's done it over and over in this situation and it just didn't happen [last night]."

Foulke's reduced velocity has been much publicized lately, but last night it seemed all right. On one pitch he hit 89 miles per hour. Varitek remains unconcerned about velocity.

''It's [about] getting comfortable and getting into his zone, because he's a guy who can pinpoint," Varitek said. ''He's got three gears on his changeup. It's been a tough time for him. There's no plainer thing to say than to say we need him. We ain't going anywhere without him. Period. We've got to keep getting him out there and it's going to happen for him."

Varitek went so far as to say, ''I think he keeps getting better. He's just not able to get away with any mistakes. People see blood. I just think he's going to get through one of these and that's going to be the end of it."

It was especially painful because Manny Ramírez had given the Sox a 5-3 lead with a two-run homer in the eighth.

Today is ''Keith Foulke Day" in the Globe's wrist band promotion, but they may not be able to give the bands away after he began to give the game away after one out in the ninth.

He allowed a triple to right-center to Michael Young, who scored the tying run on Mark Teixeira's double to right. After he walked Hank Blalock, he hit Alfonso Soriano on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases for Mench.

''He came in and I thought he had good pop on his fastball, made real good pitches to Dave Dellucci," said Francona. ''It's a one-run game and that's the big guy you want to keep off the bases. Once Michael Young came up and stretched that out to a triple, we've got our hands full. You make a dangerous hitter that much more dangerous. Those are the consequences of facing a good hitter."

Asked if he had a solution to the team's bullpen woes, Francona said, ''It's eight minutes after the game. It doesn't work that way."

Foulke did not address the media after the game.

Ramírez, who was named to his seventh straight All-Star team Sunday, might have looked silly in the second inning when he tried to stretch a shortstop error on a ground ball that trickled into the outfield and was thrown out at second by a country mile.

But in the eighth Ramírez stroked a Joaquin Benoit 2-0 fastball 446 feet into the grassy knoll in center field, a two-run homer with buddy David Ortiz aboard to break a 3-3 deadlock.

Ortiz provided the prelude to Ramírez's 21st homer (he had three RBIs and now has 73 on the season) with a single to left against submarining lefthander Brian Shouse.

Starter Wade Miller, who struck out eight and walked five in throwing 121 pitches (only 68 for strikes) over six innings, left the game tied at 3. Then it was buckle up for the bullpen.

Mike Timlin spotted Soriano a leadoff single in the eighth, and with two outs, Soriano scored the Rangers' fourth run on Rod Barajas's double to right-center. But Alan Embree came on to retire Gary Matthews Jr. on a grounder to shortstop, sending it into the ninth.

Timlin said he contributed to the loss.

''I missed some of my locations," lamented Timlin. ''I didn't do the job as well as I should have."

In explaining his winning hit, Mench said, ''I was thinking he was going to throw me a changeup and I got a fastball in."

The decision ended Boston's seven-game road winning streak, and came after an unusually rough home stand, during which they lost four of six.

Miller allowed three runs on three hits in the first inning, again having early problems, although he shut the Rangers down until he left the game after six.

Miller, who spent the first eight years of his professional career in the Houston organization, was no stranger to pitching in Texas heat. With the heat index 101 degrees at game time, Miller started things off by walking leadoff hitter Dellucci, and on Young's tapper back to the mound, Miller turned and threw the ball over the covering Edgar Renteria's head, but Mark Bellhorn did a nice job backing up and prevented further advancement of the runners. After Teixeira's infield single to second loaded the bases, third baseman Blalock unloaded with a single to right scoring a pair of runs, followed by Soriano's RBI single.

Miller was bailed out of further peril when Mench's liner to shortstop doubled up Soriano. Miller bore down and induced a pop out to Laynce Nix to get out of the inning.

The Sox were able to score two runs off Ricardo Rodríguez in the third.

No. 8 hitter Bill Mueller started the inning with a single to right field. After Johnny Damon, who had extended his hitting streak to 20 straight games with a first-inning single, reached on a fielder's choice for the second out, the Sox' patience was key. Renteria, Ortiz, and Ramírez all walked as Rodríguez really lost his composure. Ramírez's free pass came with the bases loaded, scoring the first Sox run. Rodríguez threw a wild pitch on an 0-2 count to Trot Nixon that bounded behind catcher Barajas, scoring Renteria with the second run of the inning. But Nixon couldn't keep it going, lining to first base to keep the Rangers out in front, 3-2.

Rodríguez allowed a leadoff double to left-center to Ortiz in the sixth, and after Ramirez lined to second, Rangers manager Buck Showalter made the move to Juan Domínguez, who surrendered the tying double by Nixon.

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