JOE MORGAN had just about completed his obligatory post-mortem when the silence in the Red Sox clubhouse was pierced.
A few very loud exclamatory sentences were accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a metal chair meeting an immovable object. Twice for emphasis.
"That a boy Tony, fire 'em up," said Morgan, almost without changing expression.
Outside, about 50 feet from the manager's office, catcher Tony Pena was doing his best to liven up, or break up, the locker room. His message, delivered to no one in particular, basically was that enough is enough and it was time to get on with the task of winning the division title.
If the intent was to get everybody's attention, Pena succeeded. There was no explanation (his only comments were those shouted to the ceiling), but the intent apparently was as Morgan indicated -- to light a fuse for his teammates.
How effective he was remains to be seen, but several Red Sox players seemed startled by the unusual outburst, which apparently was not in keeping with Pena's normal deportment.
The incident detracted only slightly from a 4-1 loss in which lefthander Tom Bolton entered the seventh inning with a no-hitter and exited with his fourth defeat in 13 decisions. A two-out, three-run home run by David Segui inflicted the major damage, but only after a couple of well-placed hits and Cal Ripken's escape from a potential inning-ending double play.
The game seemed to typify what has happened to the Red Sox of late. When Morgan was asked if it was hard to believe what happened in the last two weeks, he didn't even wait for the question mark before firing off his answer.
"It's not hard to believe at all," he said. "I saw every game and I watched the scoreboard."
Seeing is believing, but not always understanding.
That certainly had to be true for Bolton. "I was sailing along, gave up a hit, we missed a chance for a double play, a ball sneaks through the infield, and a home run," was the way he quietly summed up his evening. "It was a bad time for it to happen."
Making Bolton's agony even more severe was the fact he felt like he'd finally gotten in gear when the horror show took place. "I didn't think I was throwing very well early," he said. "They [the Orioles] hit the ball at them and we made some good defensive plays.
"I didn't think about it [the no-hitter] for the first five innings, but then in the sixth and seventh I felt like I started to stay back and get my mechanics straightened out. I was rushing myself, trying to adjust some things between my last start and this one.
"The no-hitter didn't mean anything to me," said Bolton, "but the zTC shutout did. I was hoping to make one run work for us."
Except for their 7-3 win here Monday night, when they were aided by four Orioles errors, the Red Sox have been struggling for runs. Bolton indicated it was something the pitchers are aware of, but that it didn't affect their approach.
"We're just trudging along right now. We have to go out and make some breaks for ourselves."
Bolton gave up three hits before Segui's homer last night, but Morgan said pulling the lefthander never entered his mind. "I was going with him all the way through Segui," said Morgan. "I had all the faith in the world he would get him out. He [Segui] hadn't swung good against him all night."
But one pitch changed the game's complexion. "It was a fastball that I was trying to get in on him and left over the plate," said a dejected Bolton.
From a potential no-hitter to a difficult loss in the space of a few minutes. That's how it has been for the Red Sox of late.
"How would I describe it?" Morgan said, repeating a question relating to the last two weeks. "I don't think there's any doubt that we've gotten good pitching, but haven't gotten enough runs."
He admitted to some possible changes in the middle of the batting order. "We almost made one today," he said last night. "We might try something tomorrow."
Any changes, however, will be subtle, if not merely cosmetic. There are no magic moves at this stage of the season -- though getting Roger Clemens back into the starting rotation will help.
There isn't much else Morgan or the Red Sox can do except ride out the slide -- and hope 13 games provides enough time to regroup.