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Hudson melts down vs. Red Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Pedro Martinez had prepared himself for a
tense pitcher's duel with Oakland ace Tim Hudson, then had to
concentrate even more when it quickly turned into a blowout.

Martinez hardly had to outpitch the All-Star right-hander --
Hudson staked Boston to a huge lead himself.

Martinez pitched six innings of two-hit ball to win his third
straight start, and the surging Red Sox completed a three-game
sweep of the Athletics with an 8-3 win Wednesday night.

"I don't think about Hudson. I think about my team and how hard
they're going to make it for him," Martinez said. "We're ready to
play anybody at any time right now. We're hot and we're rolling.
Anybody who stands in front of us will have a hard time."

Boston, which has won four straight, 14 of 15 and 26 of 31,
pulled within two games of the first-place New York Yankees for the
first time since before play on June 3. New York's doubleheader
against Tampa Bay was postponed because of rain.

Despite their first four-game losing streak since early July,
the AL West-leading A's maintained a 1½-game division lead over the
Anaheim Angels, who lost 1-0 at home to Toronto.

Martinez (16-5) improved to 5-1 with a 1.25 ERA in seven
regular-season starts in the Coliseum, and Hudson lost for the
first time in 10 home starts this year. He lasted only three
innings, allowing seven runs, six hits and a season-high five
walks.

David Ortiz hit a two-run single in the first for Boston, which
is 8-1 this year against Oakland, the team it beat in last season's
division series.

The A's loaded the bases against Terry Adams with three straight
two-out singles in the ninth, then Bobby Kielty drew a full-count
walk to force in a run. Keith Foulke, Oakland's closer last season,
entered and got Billy McMillon to line out for the final out and
his 28th save in 33 chances.

The Red Sox again showed their improved defense: First baseman
Doug Mientkiewicz made an impressive backhanded diving catch in
foul territory and flipped the ball to Martinez for an out on Adam
Melhuse's sharp grounder in the third.

Martinez pointed to Mientkiewicz afterward to acknowledge the
play. After allowing a leadoff walk to Mark Kotsay, Martinez
retired seven straight -- three on strikeouts -- then gave up a
single to Marco Scutaro and another walk to Kotsay. After that,
Martinez got seven more outs in a row.

He's confident in Boston's chances if there's another
first-round meeting.

"They got us two games to nothing and we came back and beat
them, so get used to it," he said of the 2003 division series.

Hudson (11-5) saw his season-high four-start winning streak end
in frustrating fashion. He began the game with three full-count
walks -- he hadn't allowed more than two in a game since coming off
the disabled list with a strained stomach muscle Aug. 7.

"I just didn't make any pitches," Hudson said. "They were
patient with me and I was missing early. ... We're just setting
them up for the playoffs -- make them think I'm terrible."

It took him 26 pitches to get his first out and 38 to finish the
inning. He matched his season-high with four walks in the first
inning. He even plunked Jason Varitek in the right knee leading off
the third.

Manager Ken Macha said before the game Hudson "is the guy who
can go out there and absolutely dominate." That wasn't true this
time.

"Start off the game by walking three guys, I don't think that's
ever happened," Macha said. "That's a tough start. Huddy was
fired up. Maybe he was overthrowing again."

The Red Sox reached base 15 times the first three innings, and
Hudson put on a jacket and quickly escaped to the clubhouse after
the third. Chris Hammond came out to start the fourth.

Hudson also lost his lone other meeting with the Red Sox this
season, allowing five earned runs in four innings May 25 at Fenway
Park in a 12-2 A's loss.

"I think that's twice," Foulke said of Hudson's struggles
against the Sox. "I've seen that guy pitch and I've never seen
that happen."

Martinez hasn't allowed a run in 16 innings. The win was his
117th with the Red Sox, tying him with Smoky Joe Wood for fifth
place in club history.

Jason Varitek's RBI single in the first extended his season-best
hitting streak to 14 games. Johnny Damon hit an RBI single in the
Red Sox's three-run third to give him an 11-game hitting streak.

Kielty hit a two-run double in the eighth for Oakland.

Game notes
Martinez improved to 12-2 over his last 20 starts. ...
Damon has scored a run in 11 straight games, three shy of his
career-best of 14 consecutive games with a run scored from Aug.
5-19, 2000, with Kansas City. The 11 games ties him with
Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu and Jim Edmonds of St. Louis for the
longest in the AL this year. Houston's Carlos Beltran went 15
straight games with a run scored, but that ended Wednesday. ... RHP
Pedro Astacio and C Sandy Martinez made their Red Sox debuts. It
was also Astacio's major league debut.