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Red Sox are thrown for a loop

Angels' young Santana is masterful

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It took US customs officials to clear up the confusion about Ervin Santana's identity, but the Red Sox won't have any trouble remembering the name, or the arm, after their 4-2 loss to Santana and the Angels yesterday afternoon.

The man previously known as Johan Santana (date of birth: 11/28/83) is now Ervin Santana (DOB: 1/10/83) after the government sorted out his Dominican birth records, but by any name or age, the 22-year-old righthander is one of the most impressive young pitchers in the game.

Santana, who threw a shutout against the White Sox in his second major league start this spring, tamed the Red Sox on five hits in 7 2/3 innings, while the aggressive Angels exploited two Boston errors and a wild pitch while running their way to a couple more runs in assuring themselves no worse than a split of this four-game series.

Center fielder Johnny Damon kicked away Darin Erstad's run-scoring single in the third, allowing a second run to score in the inning, and Edgar Renteria's low throw on Erstad's seventh-inning ground ball pulled Kevin Millar off the bag and indirectly led to another run when the Angels scored twice more against four Sox pitchers in the inning.

The error was Renteria's 23d of the season, most by any big league shortstop this season.

''We've gone through situations where we've made errors and found ways to win," Sox manager Terry Francona said, ''but they certainly make it more difficult to do. The way their guy was throwing, there was no margin for error."

The score was 4-0 when Santana left the game in the eighth after loading the bases on singles by Millar, Bill Mueller, and Damon. Scot Shields, beaten by the Sox the night before in a 4-3, 10-inning game, entered and gave up a two-run single to Renteria, but David Ortiz went down swinging to end the inning.

The Sox brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after Jason Varitek's one-out single, but Francisco Rodriguez recorded his 28th save by retiring pinch hitter John Olerud on a fly ball and Mueller on a tapper to second.

Santana, asked if he had displayed his best stuff of the season -- he hit 96 miles per hour on the radar gun -- responded, ''Average."

But while the Sox gave Santana credit for silencing them, Ortiz reserved his praise for Shields.

''It was a great pitch," Ortiz said of the breaking ball Shields threw past him for a third strike.

''I saw him pitch [Friday] night and he didn't use a breaking ball. He picked a good time to use it today."

Santana opened the game by striking out the side and five of the first six Sox hitters. He retired the first 11 Sox batters he faced before Ortiz's two-out double in the fourth. He then set down another seven in a row before Renteria doubled to open the seventh, becoming just the second Sox base runner against Santana, who did not walk a batter.

''He had velocity, movement, four different pitches, all of which he threw for strikes," Francona said of Santana, who last month beat the Yankees twice in a span of six days but is still searching for consistency. ''And even the pitches he left over the middle of the plate, they all had movement."

Damon said Santana's delivery created problems.

''The first few innings he was absolutely nasty," Damon said. ''He had the same arm action on his fastball, curveball, changeup, and sinker, the same arm action on all his pitches. Later in the game, he didn't show the same arm action, but he was getting by with his fastball."

Bronson Arroyo, who was looking for his 11th win, which would have been one more than the career-high 10 he won for the Sox last season, ran into trouble in the third when he hit Adam Kennedy, the No. 9 hitter in the Angels' order (don't be fooled by the placement, Kennedy is hitting a team-best .329), with an 0-and-2 curveball, a pitch that broke more inside than Arroyo had intended.

Chone Figgins flied out for the second out, but with Orlando Cabrera at the plate, Kennedy stole second. Arroyo then issued a walk to Cabrera, a tough guy to walk (28 passes in 102 games), and Erstad followed with a single that scored Kennedy, with Cabrera crossing the plate as well when Damon reached for a bounce that never came.

''Just a swipe and a whiff," Damon said of his error, only his second this season.

''In a close game," he said, ''you just wish that stuff didn't happen."

Lenny DiNardo surely wished for a better outcome than the one that greeted his return to the Sox yesterday, the lefthander summoned from Pawtucket when Adam Stern was placed on the disabled list. If there were bonus rewards given out for riding the Pawtucket-to-Boston shuttle, DiNardo would have won a Caribbean cruise by now; this was his fourth recall of the season, and somehow in all that time he'd managed to make just two appearances, pitching just 1 1/3 innings.

Imagine his surprise when the bullpen phone rang in the seventh, and it was for him, in a 2-0 game. DiNardo gave up a ground-ball single to the first batter he faced, Kennedy, who stole second again -- the Angels have six stolen bases in the series -- and took third when Figgins lined a single to left. Cabrera's sacrifice fly to Damon made it 3-0, and after Mike Myers replaced DiNardo, all hands were safe when Renteria charged Erstad's grounder, looked at second, and fired low to Millar. Instead of two outs and Figgins on second, the Angels had runners on first and second, taking away the option of Francona issuing an intentional walk to Vladimir Guerrero, who already had been given four free passes in the series.

Chad Bradford, summoned to face Guerrero, gave up a first-pitch line single to the slugger, loading the bases, and his wild pitch to Casey Kotchman made it 4-0. Only a terrific catch by Damon on the track in center, taking away extra bases from Maicer Izturis, spared Mike Remlinger, the fourth pitcher of the inning, from another round of ''Why is that guy still on this team?"

Renteria's defense continues to mock the Gold Gloves he collected in St. Louis, though Francona cut him some slack yesterday, saying that Renteria had looked first at second base before making his hurried peg in a vain attempt to catch a hustling Erstad. There was some question in the clubhouse whether Millar had actually been pulled off the bag.

Before the game, Sox general manager Theo Epstein was asked if he was disappointed on the return he'd gotten on the four-year, $40 million deal he'd given Renteria, who committed just 11 errors last season.

''I would never say that," Epstein said. ''I think his best baseball with the Red Sox is ahead of us. I think that this is sort of the baseline of how he can play. He's not going to play worse, he's going to play better and even then, he's done a lot of things to help us win.

''He's going to make a greater impact going forward, no doubt about that. It's hard, oftentimes, your first year in a new town. Look at the big contracts out there. It's tough. You don't always make an immediate impact. But he's too good a player to not play better. But even what he's doing now is not a disaster."

Renteria, going forward, came up clutch against Shields with his two-run single, but it wasn't enough. Afterward, Damon uttered words that should warm the hearts of setup men everywhere.

''I think Shields is their MVP," he said.

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