BOSTON -- Say this about the 2007 Red Sox -- they have one another's back. There was no better example of this than on Sunday, when players and staff went to the edge of the visitors' dugout in Baltimore to keep a heckling fan away from a frustrated Eric Gagne.

"There were some overzealous fans," manager Terry Francona said in his most diplomatic tone.

To say it was a rough weekend for Gagne would be a vast understatement. He lost two eighth-inning leads and watched as his ERA ballooned to 15.75.

But everyone wearing a Red Sox uniform, starting with Francona, understands that they need the flame-throwing right-hander to be effective down the stretch if they are to realize their October dreams.

"Any time guys give up runs at the end of a game, it's a lot more glaring, especially when you have a lead on the road. That's the way the game is," Francona said on Monday.

The skipper has no plans to use the 2003 National League Cy Young Award winner in mop-up situations.

"The best thing I can do is not run from him," he said. "[We'll] put him in situations he's supposed to pitch in, and when we get him hot, hopefully we'll be a team that's really deep. That's why we got him."

Building confidence can work with younger relievers and those coming back from injuries, but Francona doesn't believe that he needs to bring Gagne along.

"I see us potentially being the best team by keeping him in his role, and sometimes you've got to be patient," said Francona. "And again, it's not always easy, but that's the right thing to do."

Francona wasn't alone in standing up for Gagne. Jonathan Papelbon was one of the biggest supporters of the trade-deadline acquisition of Gagne, since it meant another arm in front of him in the 'pen. Papelbon was also grateful that Gagne showed the willingness to pitch in the eighth as a setup man instead of in his customary ninth-inning role.

"We're a unit down there in the bullpen, and obviously, we've gone through a couple of bumps in the road, as a team and as a bullpen," Papelbon said. "It's not just one guy or a few guys. It's us as a unit, and we're down there as a team within a team, and we're going to come out of this and get back on track here."

Resting up: Two regulars were out of the starting lineup on Monday, for different reasons. Center fielder Coco Crisp missed his second straight game with an apparent viral infection that has left him weak. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia got a day off to keep him fresh.

"Coco was seen by [team internist] Dr. [Laurence] Ronan [on Monday] at about 1 o'clock and was given a blood test, just to make sure that everything he has is just viral," Francona said. "Dr. Ronan thinks it's strictly viral, so [we'll] give him another night and hope it's only one night."

Crisp is just 13-for-61 (.213) in his last 17 games.

"I think last week Coco got to the point where he was about fried, and that's why we gave him a day off," Francona said. "When you get tired, and then you get sick, that's a bad combination. Even when you feel good, you get sick. But when you get tired, it just makes you feel like you got run over by a truck."

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip, but Francona insisted that Crisp's misadventure with the Mariner Moose on Aug. 5 in Seattle had nothing to do with his current situation.

"Anybody else would have [been hurt]," Francona said with a wry smile. "The only two people I can think that have body control like that are me and him -- the quickness and agility to dodge that. He's OK. He actually had a pretty good outlook about that.

"[We'll] just try to run him back out there when he's able to. The quicker, the better, especially with a lefty [on Tuesday], having him being available would be advantageous."

Pedroia was batting .371 in his last 23 games before getting a break on Monday.

"We're just trying to see if we can get him to finish the season weighing over 120," Francona joked. "We have a doubleheader coming up on Friday. [Alex Cora] hasn't played in seven games. We just need to keep guys sharp so that when we do play them, they can help us win. So you try to win, but you try to pick days where it makes sense."

Coming up: It figures to be an emotional Tuesday night when Jon Lester (1-0, 6.43 ERA) pitches in Fenway Park for the first time since returning from successful cancer treatment. Lester will be opposed by another lefty, Tampa Bay's hard-throwing Scott Kazmir (9-7, 3.58).