Eric Gagne sat in front of his locker, his head down and his shoulders sagging. He wasn't the one who gave up the game-winning home run to Kevin Millar, yet the struggling reliever heaped all the blame for Boston's latest defeat squarely upon himself.
Millar hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning after Miguel Tejada tied it with a shot off Gagne in the eighth, leading the Baltimore Orioles past the skidding Red Sox 6-3 on Sunday.
It was the fourth loss in six games for the Red Sox, whose lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East shrunk to four games &
Boston's smallest margin since May 1.
"They're playing a whole lot better than we are right now. It's that simple," Red Sox starter Curt Schilling said. "They're winning and we're not. But the answers are here in this room, and we're going to find them."
Obtained from Texas on July 31 to fortify the back end of the bullpen, Gagne endured another damaging performance. Seeking to hold a 3-1 lead in the eighth, the right-hander entered with a runner on and promptly yielded a tying home run to Tejada on a 3-2 pitch.
Gagne retired the next two batters, but he has allowed seven runs in four innings over five games. On Friday, Gagne got one out while blowing a four-run lead in a 6-5 defeat.
Despite facing starters Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling, Baltimore took two of three from Boston, ending a run of 11 straight series losses to the Red Sox since July 7-10, 2005.
"We should have won three games out of three and I ... blew two of them," Gagne said in a profanity-laced rant. "They brought me in to do a job and I'm not doing it. It's ridiculous. These guys play eight great innings and I go out there and blow it. It's a shame."
Corey Patterson led off the 10th with a single off Kyle Snyder (2-3) and went to third on a single by Nick Markakis. After Tejada fouled out, Markakis stole second and Millar hit a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats.
It didn't matter that the opposition was the Red Sox, whom Millar helped win the 2004 World Series. He relished the opportunity to step to the plate with the outcome hanging in the balance.
"That's the stuff you dream about when you're in the yard playing Whiffle Ball as a kid," Millar said. "You dream of playing in the big leagues, you dream of hitting a game-winning home run."
For Gagne, it was a recurring nightmare.
"I'm not doing my job right now. I'm letting everybody here down," he said. "I need to step up my game, find my game."
Snyder said the Red Sox aren't blaming Gagne, or anyone in particular, for their struggles of late.
"It's not one person's fault in this locker room. I think everybody in here is accountable," he said. "There isn't a single person in here pointing fingers at anybody."
Boston manager Terry Francona said of Gagne, "We need him to be good. He will be very good."
The game drew a sellout crowd of 48,551, bringing the total attendance for the series to 146,786, the largest for a three-game series in the 16-year history of Camden Yards. Many of the fans were rooting for the Red Sox, who usually have little problem beating Baltimore on the road or at Fenway Park.
"We had a curse. I think it was worse than the 86-year-old curse we had at Fenway," Millar said, referring to the title drought he helped Boston end three seasons ago.
Chad Bradford (1-4) got two outs in the 10th for the win.
Schilling allowed one run and five hits in six innings. He walked off the mound with a 3-1 lead and in position to earn his first victory since June 7. Instead, he received a no-decision in his second start since spending more than six weeks on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.
He didn't blame Gagne, either.
"He's going to be an essential part of us winning a World Series if that happens," Schilling said. "You can't allow one or two outings to shape your mentality (individually) or as a club. It's unfortunate, but it happens."
Schilling walked none and did not have a strikeout, the first time in his career he's recorded zeros in both categories as a starter. It was also the second time in three starts that he failed to get a strikeout; prior to that, the right-hander had at least one strikeout in every appearance since July 1, 1993.
Manny Ramirez drove in two runs for the Red Sox to move past Jimmie Foxx into sole possession of sixth place on the franchise list.
After Baltimore scored an unearned run in the second, a two-run double by Ramirez put Boston up in the third. Doubles by Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo made it 3-1 in the fourth.
Tejada's home run was the first by either team in the three games. ... Boston's Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless seventh and has been scored upon only once in his last 15 appearances. ... Mora went 0-for-3 against Schilling and is 3-for-31 lifetime against the right-hander.
Orioles beat Red Sox 6-3 in 10 innings