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06/07/06 1:16 AM ET

Pauley solid in Sox loss to Yanks

Rookie allows just two runs in 6 2/3 strong innings

NEW YORK -- Whether you are a 22-year-old pitcher just a week removed from Double-A or a superstar slugger who makes $20 million per season, the game can be downright heartbreaking.

Just ask David Pauley and Manny Ramirez. Those were the two central figures for the Red Sox in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night in a game that had drama more fit for October than June.

Here Pauley was, making his second Major League start on the mound at Yankee Stadium. He tossed zeroes at the Yankees for five of the first six innings and had the game locked in a 1-1 tie entering what turned out to be a gut-wrenching bottom of the seventh.

For all the challenging work Pauley had performed so effectively all night, all he needed to do to escape from the seventh inning unscathed was field a slow roller back toward the box from Miguel Cairo.

But in a cruel twist of fate, the ball rolled just inches under his glove and toward the middle. The only way second baseman Mark Loretta could have made the play was bare-handed. No go -- Loretta also mishandled the ball, and the Yankees had an infield hit.

"I was so proud of [Pauley]," said manager Terry Francona. "He executed pitches, sunk his fastball, threw his offspeed pitches for strikes, competed -- he pitched a very, very strong game. The shame of it is, he gets two outs in the seventh and the ground ball goes under his glove and leads to the run. That's a shame. He pitched his [butt] off."

As it was, Pauley took the loss, giving up eight hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings.

"It was definitely frustrating," said Pauley. "I come up with that [ball] and we get out of the inning unscathed, and it's still a 1-1 game. I just didn't get my glove down far enough, and it scooted right underneath it."

The Yankees are the type of team that capitalizes on such events, so it was no surprise when Johnny Damon belted a single to center and Melky Cabrera -- who would be heard from later -- walked to load them up. With the dangerous Jason Giambi coming to the plate, Francona gave Pauley a hearty pat on the back and went to reliever Rudy Seanez.

Seanez walked Giambi on a 3-2 pitch, forcing in the go-ahead run.

"It's terrible, you never want to do that," said Seanez. "But you don't want to lay one right in there and next thing you know, they have four. I'm not about to give in and just let him crush one."

Ramirez did crush one just a few minutes later against Kyle Farnsworth, sending a towering blast to deep left-center field with two outs in the eighth. It looked as though Ramirez, who has always loved hitting at Yankee Stadium, was going to tie the game at 2.

But that was not on Cabrera's agenda. The left fielder raced back to the wall, raised his glove above it and pulled the ball back into the ballpark. Talk about grand larceny.

Damon looked more excited than Cabrera, as he gave perhaps his most exuberant fist pump since piling on to the field with the rest of the 2004 Red Sox after clinching the World Series in St. Louis.

"I don't get excited too much, but that was definitely worth it," said Damon. "That ball should have been a home run, but the wind -- the ghosts, whatever -- definitely helped us out. We need them to help us out a little."

Ramirez, who hasn't spoken with the media since March 1, gave a polite "no thank you" when asked to recount the play. But his partner in slugging gave the most fitting statement of all.

David Ortiz, fresh out of the shower, walked over to Ramirez and said, "That's why, when I hit my [stuff], I hit it 500 feet."

Earlier in the game, Ortiz did seem to hit one that far, unloading for a monster blast off Chien-Ming Wang that caromed off the facade of the upper deck to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the third.

Bernie Williams offset that shot with one of his own, a leadoff blast in the fifth that tied the score at 1.

Ramirez tried, perhaps too hard, to start a rally in the sixth, ripping a single to center and, surprisingly, trying to stretch it to a double against his old friend Damon. It is no secret that Damon doesn't have a strong arm, but he easily threw out Ramirez at second.

Damon has seen his share of Manny moments over the years, such as the time in July 2004, when Ramirez actually cut off a throw from the center fielder at Fenway, allowing Baltimore's David Newhan to get an inside-the-park home run. In other words, Damon was amused but not surprised at Ramirez's attempt to run on him.

"It was great," Damon said. "Manny wasn't there to cut the ball off for me, so I was happy about that. But to Manny's credit, that ball was headed to center field and then it took a left-hand turn to left-center and was bouncing all over the place, so I had to take my time. But I got him by 40, 50 feet."

Pauley was the big story early on, as he pitched far better than he did in his debut last week against the Blue Jays, when he gave up 11 hits and six runs over 4 1/3 innings.

"I think it was being a little more comfortable," he said. "I got the first one out of the way in Toronto. I had a lot of inspiring things from a lot of the guys. They just said, 'Keep your confidence, go after the guys, and you'll do just fine.' I took that into the game and did what I needed to do."

The Yankees gained some respect for Pauley.

"He kept us off balance and he made his pitches," said Cairo. "We just got real lucky today with that walk to get that win today."

If Giambi's walk was luck, Cabrera's catch took an incredible amount of skill and perfect timing.

"I was devastated," said Francona. "You're pushing and pushing. I knew it was going to be close. It was a pretty big play in a pretty big time of the game."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.