Red Sox pushed to brink

Error, 5-run fifth lift Chicago, put champs' backs to wall ... again

White Sox 5, Red Sox 4

AL Division Series



CHICAGO -- All year, the Boston Red Sox have been hoping that history

could repeat itself, and now they know to be careful what they wish for.

Before they won the World Series last year, they always did have a lot of stories they'd like to forget. now they have one more.

They also have trouble on their hands. the defending World Series champions are one loss away from being eliminated because they couldn't overcome a gaffe by tony graffanino and couldn't find a way to keep the chicago white sox from winning, 5-4, last night in game 2 of their american league division series.

So now everyone in both clubhouses is talking about how the red sox were on the brink of elimination each of the past two years and how they came back to win it all last season. that's Boston's good history. but last night, the Red Sox had a reminder of not-so-good times when graffanino looked like Bill Buckner.

A slow, spinning ground ball by Juan Uribe went through the legs of the second baseman. Two batters later, Tadahito Iguchi hit a three-run homer to left against David Wells that turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead and ultimately into a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five series.

"It crushed me, of course," Graffanino said. "We're losing 5-4 and it's my fault. I think anybody who has played the game has been in that position. this was my day."

But it just wasn't Wells' day, either. Like his team, he was seen as a postseason tower of strength. Then he couldn't hold a 4-0 lead, and he wasn't able to fulfill the request Graffanino made after the error: "Hey, pick me up, OK?"

Wells did get the next batter and was one out from leaving the fifth with a 4-2 edge. Then he delivered a fat fastball.

"You can't point fingers at him," he said of his second baseman. "Point it at me. i gave up the home run, end of story."

Not yet. the White Sox still have to win one more game, and they know that the last one against the Red Sox is the toughest to get, especially with the next two games scheduled for Fenway Park. "That team has been down 2-0 and 3-0," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

"They're not going anywhere." True, the Red Sox were one game away from being eliminated by the New York Yankees last year and by the Oakland Athletics the year before. "I've seen this before," said White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye, who was on that Oakland team. as he prepared for the flight to Boston, he added, "Guys in here are telling me to stay back."

If nothing else, the unproven white Sox proved they aren't nervous. They withstood Boston's early burst - a two-run single by manny Ramirez in the first and a three-hit, two-run rally in the third. Mark Buehrle allowed only two singles in four innings after that. Rookie closer Bobby Jenks shut them out for the final two, withstanding Graffanino's one-out double to left-center in the ninth.

"Either you believe you can or you don't," Pierzynski said. "in the postseason, you have to believe you can."

The White Sox believe they can. so much so that they didn't have to say it.

"We don't get too high," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "What we did tonight doesn't mean anything tomorrow."

Except that tomorrow they have a chance to win the series. They have their own reservoir of good memories to dwell on: Carl Everett's single and Aaron Rowand's double to start the fifth, Joe Crede's run-scoring single, the Graffanino play and the homer. They know they made the Red Sox blink last night.

They even felt a little bad for Graffanino. "Every player has been in that situation before," said dye, a friend and former teammate in Kansas City. "Everybody has done something to help that other team to win. As an athlete, you take the bad with the good and understand you're human. He's going to be ready to play on friday."

They know the Red Sox's recent history of comebacks. But at least for last night, it seemed that the shoe was on the other foot in this battle of the Soxes. The White Sox had the right to use the Red Sox mantra. As Guillen said: "Well, we never give up."

Not that Boston will either.

After a 19-8 loss to the Yankees in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series a year ago, the Red Sox won eight straight games to capture their first world series title since 1918. Boston has won eight of its past nine games when facing postseason elimination.

"Last year was last year; this has nothing to do with last year," Boston's David Ortiz said. "We made a comeback, but it was last year."

Added Boston manager Terry Francona, "The perspective is we're down 0-2. ... I'd rather have it the other way. The comfort I have is our ability to play."

Mark Herrmann writes for Newsday. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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