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Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Updated: October 14, 9:37 AM ET
Sox hanging by a thread

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Perhaps it's time for the Red Sox to sue George Steinbrenner over missing child support payments for Pedro Martinez because at the moment, the court system appears to be Boston's only viable way of beating the Yankees.

Here's the situation after Wednesday's 3-1 loss, perhaps the most dire Boston has ever faced that didn't involve Ben Affleck.

Pedro Martinez
Pedro can't bear to watch another loss to the Yankees.

Curt Schilling was going to put an end to the 85-year world championship drought, but he needs surgery on his ankle, has been issued a cast-like boot and might not be able to pitch again this postseason.

Martinez was behind before he recorded his first out Wednesday and lost one more time to the team he'll never again make the mistake of referring to as his "Daddy."

Leadoff hitter Johnny Damon is hitless in eight at-bats with five strikeouts. MVP candidate Manny Ramirez has a bloop single, a double and no RBI. And the league's most potent offense has yet to score before the seventh inning.

Closer Keith Foulke was needed in the eighth inning of both games to protect three-run and two-run deficits.

And to think, the Red Sox looked so good entering the series that even Vegas oddsmakers considered Boston the favorite against New York for perhaps the first time since Bob Sheppard's voice changed.

"I would have agreed with that," Damon said of being favored. "Now I guess people will have to lay some more bets because I'm sure we're the underdogs."

Yeah, just a bit. The Red Sox face the uphill battle of beating the Yankees four times in the next five games (two of them at Yankee Stadium). It's possible but no team has rallied from a 2-0 deficit in a championship series since the 1985 Royals, while New York is 14-2 postseason series in which it has won the first two games.

It's a reconstruction project more imposing than the Big Dig, and Boston might need to pull it off without Schilling. The Red Sox announced before the game that Schilling's ankle injury stems from a tendon tear that places his pitching status in serious jeopardy. The Red Sox tried using a brace, tape and injections to keep the tendon stable in Game 1 to no avail and said they will seek further treatments and new braces -- about the only thing that has been ruled out is a peg leg -- that might allow him to pitch in a possible Game 5.

If not? "We won't send Curt out unless the tendon is stable, unless it's in one place and he can use his normal delivery," general manager Theo Epstein said.

Asked whether he felt the situation was as grim as the doctor made it out, Schilling replied, "I don't feel either way. I'll come to the park tomorrow, and we'll see."

Players almost always downplay injuries, expressing confidence they'll be back on the field the next day even as the doctor begins the incision for Tommy John surgery. That Schilling expressed no such confidence is telling. And while the Red Sox repeatedly expressed hope Schilling could pitch in Game 5, nothing else they said gave any indication he could.

Manager Terry Francona declined to speculate on who he might start in Schilling's place if he is unable to pitch in Game 5. The options are Derek Lowe, who was 14-12 with a 5.42 ERA this year, and Pedro, who would have to pitch on three days' rest when his endurance is already in question.

"At this stage, I don't think there is a need for anybody to tell me whether I should pitch on short rest or not," Pedro said after throwing 113 pitches in six innings in Game 2. "I just see the need in my team and if it's up to me, I will pitch on short rest and pick Schill up. He's done it all year for us and if he has to go down, I'll stand up and I'll pitch on short rest and I'll go to the bullpen. I'll do anything to win."

Of course, first the series has to get to a fifth game, which is no given considering the way the Red Sox are struggling. Even with the entire state of New York chanting "Who's Your Daddy?'' throughout the game, Pedro pitched well enough to win -- three runs, four hits in six innings -- if only Boston had managed some offense against New York starter Jon Lieber. One night after not getting a baserunner until the seventh inning against Mike Mussina, the Red Sox had only one hit against Lieber in the first six innings.

"Pedro didn't lose this game, we lost the game for us," catcher Jason Varitek said, referring to the offense. "I think we were overanxious early in the game. We got ourselves out early. I'm not taking anything away from Lieber, but we didn't do too much with our at-bats early."

"I'll take the responsibility for this," Damon said. "I'm 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. I'm the catalyst, and when I'm not doing my job right it makes it tougher on the whole team. I'm the guy who have to get on base. I'm the guy who can run and cause havoc on the bases, and I haven't been able to do that.

"It's very frustrating, especially the way I was swinging against the Angels last week. They've keyed on me, and they've made their pitches. I'll have to come up with something to combat it."

At least the series shifts to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox had one of the best home records in baseball. They'll send Bronson Arroyo (10-9, 4.02 ERA) to the mound against Kevin Brown and his broken hand and all those decades of Yankees dominance over Boston.

"The Yankees definitely step it up a notch," Damon said. "Their regular season is just a stepping stone to the postseason for them."

Just as the postseason has just been the stepping stone to nothing more than a cold, agonizing winter of second-guessing and what-ifs for Boston.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.