Josh Beckett was forced to come out of the game. Jeremy Guthrie probably should have stayed in.

Guthrie took a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning yesterday and came within two outs of his first complete game before Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo pulled him, only to watch the Boston Red Sox score six runs and beat the visiting Orioles, 6-5.

"At one point, it seems like we had no chance," said slugger David Ortiz, who doubled in Boston's first run. "In the ninth, 5-0, fly ball, catcher misses it, and that was the difference in the game. Everybody started going crazy."

Guthrie was cruising, having retired eight straight, when catcher Ramon Hernandez dropped Coco Crisp's popup near the third-base line for an error. Boston then got four hits, three walks and a hit batter against Danys Baez and Ray (3-3).

J.C. Romero (1-0) struck out two in 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Guthrie, making his third start of the season and the fourth of his career, was looking for his second consecutive win since being promoted from the bullpen. For 8 1/3 innings, he was the unlikely star.

"Well, this was only his second start," Perlozzo said. "He wanted to stay in, but that was definitely my decision. My decision. We didn't make a couple of plays that we should have. Game should have been over."

Ray gave up three runs - two earned - on three hits and two walks while getting just one out in his third blown save of the season. He was also charged with an error for dropping the toss from first baseman Kevin Millar on the final play of the game, allowing Jason Varitek and Eric Hinske to scamper home on what could have been Julio Lugo's game-ending grounder.

"That's a game we should have won, period," Millar said. "That game was in our hands. I really feel terrible for Guthrie."

In other games:

* At Seattle, Horacio Ramirez (3-2) worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and one run as the Mariners defeated the New York Yankees, 2-1.

Raul Ibanez had an RBI single in the third and Jose Lopez's sacrifice fly an inning later provided all the offense Ramirez needed.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he planned to use today's off day to return to New York to visit his brother, Frank, who remains in the hospital following a kidney transplant. Frank Torre, 75, had the kidney operation May 1 and has been in and out of intensive care with pneumonia and an infection.

* At Oakland, Jack Cust's fifth homer in four games capped a five-run ninth inning that helped the Athletics rally past Cleveland, 10-7.

* At Arlington, Texas, Nelson Cruz hit his first home run of the season with one out in the ninth inning to give the Rangers a 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

* At Chicago, David DeJesus tied a career high with four hits, Jorge De La Rosa (4-3) pitched seven sharp innings and Kansas City beat the White Sox, 11-1.

* At Toronto, Carlos Pena hit a solo home run in the seventh inning and a run-scoring infield single with two outs in the ninth to lead Tampa Bay to a 2-1 win over the Blue Jays.

Toronto starter Shaun Marcum left the game after six hitless innings. It was his first start of the season after 13 relief appearances. Pena's homer, which came off Jason Frasor (1-2) in the seventh, was Tampa Bay's first hit of the game.

* At Minnesota, Torii Hunter went 3-for-5 with two home runs and seven RBI and Michael Cuddyer went 3-for-6 with a home run and four RBI to lead the Twins to a 16-4 win over the Detroit Tigers.

Noteworthy

* Roger Clemens likely will make his first minor league start for the New York Yankees on Friday at Class A Tampa. It has yet to be determined whether Clemens will make two or three minor league starts before joining the Yankees' rotation. Clemens signed a 1-year contract for $28,000,022 on May 6.

* Minnesota designated righthander Sidney Ponson (2-5) - who is tryng to revive his career and get past a number of alcohol-related problems - for assignment. The Twins held off on replacing Ponson in the rotation, using the open roster spot to recall Garrett Jones - a first baseman and rightfielder - from Triple A Rochester.

* Felix Hernandez, on the disabled list because of a strained forearm, is scheduled to start tomorrow at home against the Los Angeles Angels. *