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Tavarez and Sox unravel in loss

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This will require further investigation, but the suspicion here is that the "snake oil" Julian Tavarez rubs on his right arm before he pitches has multiple uses. There are occasions, like after last night's 8-4 loss to the Texas Rangers, when Tavarez might want to soak his head in it, then pass it on to J.C. Romero.

Frustrated Red Sox fans, meanwhile, may want to wait for FDA approval before they think about drinking it.

Tavarez, thrilled to begin his second season with the Sox as a starting pitcher after beginning 2006 on the suspended list for throwing a spring training nutty, didn't become visibly agitated when provoked last night. But neither was he up to the task of shaking off the effects of J.D. Drew's two-base error in the third that allowed Michael Young to circle the bases after his RBI double skipped past the new Sox right fielder, who compounded his failure to glove the ball with a misdirected throw into the infield.

A harsher scorer might have assessed two errors on the play, which became the tipping point of a night that went from bad to worse for Tavarez and the Sox. Tavarez, who saw an early 2-0 lead evaporate on the Drew misplay, subsequently loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, then watched his stationary left fielder, Manny Ramírez, play a line drive by Nelson Cruz that nearly hit him in the shoelaces into a two-run single.

"I thought it was going to be caught," Tavarez said. "He played it on one bounce, he played it the safety way, I think he did the right thing.

"I'm with Manny with whatever he does out there. We have one of the greatest sluggers in the game out there."

The Rangers led, 4-2. Tavarez, who had escaped a bases-loaded jam the inning before, wore himself out in that 36-pitch inning and was gone after the fourth. "I guess it was a long inning," he said of the third. "My whole game plan was to attack, attack with my fastball, get guys to swing on the first pitch, get some ground balls. But I changed my plan in the third -- I don't know why -- and I walked five guys; that really hurt."

The Sox crept within a run in the sixth on Jason Varitek's run-scoring double, but the bullpen squandered any chance of taking Tavarez off the hook during a four-run Rangers uprising in the bottom of the inning that reintroduced the bunny hop to highlight reels -- and on the night before Easter, no less.

The hopper, Sammy Sosa, had retreated to his native Dominican Republic last year after disappointing Congress and then the Baltimore Orioles with his sorry act, first at the steroid hearings and then on the field. But last night he showed there may yet be some life left in his 38-year-old swing by launching a 409-foot home run into the center-field seats off Romero with a man aboard.

The home run was No. 589 of Sosa's career -- he ranks fifth on the all-time list, behind Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays -- but his first in 20 months. Sosa last connected Aug. 4, 2005, a span of 18 games and 66 at-bats.

Romero's relief appearance, meanwhile, was his first five-alarm disaster for the Red Sox after three stellar outings. Romero gave up hits to all five batters he faced. It went like this: an RBI single to Mark Teixeira that scored Jerry Hairston Jr., who had doubled off Kyle Snyder to open the inning, HR by Sosa, single by Hank Blalock, single by Brad Wilkerson, Nelson Cruz RBI infield hit off Dustin Pedroia's glove. Romero was an equal-opportunity hit distributor: one by a switch hitter, two by righties, two by lefties.

The chill of playing in the coldest game in the history of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington deepened further when Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis came up lame running to first on his seventh-inning liner. Youkilis, who had reached base on each of his first three trips, including a first-inning single after which he came around to score on Drew's bloop single, was replaced in the bottom of the inning by Eric Hinske.

"I just turned my [left] ankle," Youkilis said. "Came out for precautionary reasons, ice it, and hope to go tomorrow."

The Sox might have inflicted more damage on Rangers starter Kevin Millwood, but Ramírez was erased at third trying to take an extra base on Drew's single, left fielder Wilkerson cutting him down.

The Sox added another run in the second, despite two terrific defensive plays by the Texans. Mike Lowell drew a walk to open the inning. Varitek followed with a smash that first baseman Teixeira gloved with a diving stop and converted into a force at second. Shortstop Young then made a play as good as Teixeira's, fielding Coco Crisp's sizzler on the short hop and turning it into another force. Crisp stole second, his first stolen base of the season, and after Pedroia drew a walk, Julio Lugo followed with a base hit up the middle, Crisp scoring.

Youkilis drew a walk to load the bases, but Millwood snagged David Ortiz's grounder to end the threat.