- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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OAKLAND -- The Red Sox have faced worse postseason situations. There was that time when the ball rolled between Bill Buckner's legs. And the time Bucky Dent homered into the net above the Green Monster. And the time Enos Slaughter scored all the way from first base.
But for backs-up-against-the-Monster disastrous situations, this is about as dire as it's been since George Scott got into line ahead of everyone else for the postgame spread in the 1967 World Series.
The afternoon after losing in extra innings on the 100th anniversary of their first World Series game, the Red Sox moved to the brink of elimination with a 5-1 loss on the 25th anniversary of Dent's home run.
They are down 0-2 to the Athletics, and their pitching staff is a bigger mess than John Kerry's hair. Pedro Martinez threw more pitches in the opening game than he did in any game the rest of the season. Their Game 3 starter, Derek Lowe, was the Game 1 loser. Their closer, Byung-Hyun Kim, may never get over being lifted with two out in the ninth.
And pitching isn't the only concern. The Sox have played terrible defense, and they're not hitting.
On a positive note, though, no one has sold Babe Ruth for 83 years.
"The A's will probably go out to eat this weekend so the Boston restaurants need to take care of them,'' outfielder Johnny Damon said. "There must be some old rat poison lying around. Maybe they could sprinkle in a little of that. We need a little help.''
It's a much different situation for a very hungry Oakland ballclub, where things are going so comfortably that Game 2 winner Barry Zito spent the final innings of that classic Game 1 lying in bed listening to the radio as if he were just one of the fans.
"I think I pictured (the game's end) pretty well,'' Zito said after shutting down the Red Sox, "but I still came in the clubhouse and watched the tape of the last couple at-bats, just to make it real for me and get me fired up for the game today.''
Of course, the Red Sox didn't need videotape to replay the game. They couldn't get the sight of Ramon Hernandez's surprise, game-deciding bunt out of their heads. Heck, they'll be replaying that moment in Boston even after the Big Dig is finally completed.
"I had nightmares all last night,'' designated hitter David Ortiz said. "I didn't get to sleep for more than an hour. My wife is good at supporting me and keeping me positive, but I didn't sleep much.''
"It's hard to wind down after a game like that even though it got over so late,'' Damon said. "I had to keep checking out the highlights on TV and seeing what went wrong. I finally wound down and got to sleep about 4.''
Unfortunately for Boston, the Red Sox bats are still slumbering. They set a major-league record for slugging percentage and scored nearly 200 more runs than Oakland during the regular season but have just scored just five in 21 innings against the Athletics' great pitchers this series.
Cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez is especially struggling. He has one hit in eight at-bats, has stranded seven baserunners and has made the final out of an inning to force the 235-pound Ortiz to lead off the next inning so many times -- seven -- that the Red Sox taped Juan Pierre's name over Ortiz's nameplate. "I guess that's why it's there,'' Ortiz said. "How many times did I lead off? Seven? That's a lot.''
Yes, it is. And if Ramirez keeps slumping, the Red Sox may encourage him to hang out at the Ritz during games.
Boston fans were still second-guessing manager Grady Little for his Game 1 moves -- Why lift Kim for Alan Embree one out from victory? Why use Lowe in relief? Why intentionally walk weak-hitting Terence Long to load the bases for Hernandez? -- when the Red Sox fell behind 5-0 with a disastrous second inning. Oakland scored five runs on two hits off starter Tim Wakefield, thanks to a walk, a hit batter, a passed ball, a botched flyball turned into a double (Ramirez) and a two-out, two-base, two-run throwing error (Todd Walker) that dug Boston into an inescapable hole against Zito.
You don't win games playing like that against Detroit in July. You certainly don't win playing that way in October against the league's best.
"I guess we put a little pressure on ourselves,'' Ortiz said. "And when you're facing good pitching, you're not supposed to do that.''
It's not too late. Oakland led the Yankees 2-0 two years ago and still lost. And the Red Sox are heading home for two games. But you can practically feel the stoves heating up in Boston for the long winter of kibitzing.
"We've had a lot of tough losses this year but none tougher than these two,'' Damon said. "But we're good enough to win three in a row. We need to win Game 3 convincingly and knock them down a bit.''
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.