Not all impressed by Terry Francona waiting until he’d already used 4 other relievers before giving the ball to Eric Gagne last night, the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley insists “it™s time for the team to cut its losses and see to it that under no circumstances does Gagne throw a pitch in a key situation in what remains of the postseason.”

Sure, it was Javier Lopez who served up the pitch that old friend Trot Nixon lined to right-center field to bring home the go-ahead run in what would be a 13-6, series-tying victory by the Indians that finally ended at 1:37 this morning. And, yes, things just kept getting uglier and uglier after Nixon™s hit, the Indians merrily padding their lead.

But let™s be clear on this: Lopez is a fringe big league pitcher, a journeyman. No shame in that. And Gagne? He happened to join the Red Sox on the same day the Celtics  acquired Kevin Garnett, and, man, that was some wonderful photo op when these two newly minted Boston athletes met each other in the Red Sox clubhouse.

It all looks kind of silly now. Give Francona some credit for providing Gagne all kinds of chances to right himself, but, again, it just hasn™t worked.

œThe bullpens really did a pretty good job of getting to extra innings, trying to stop one run, and the bottom kind of fell out for us, said Francona. œWe™re trying to set up the inning, with not having a whole lot of pitchers left, having an answer for whatever they did. We ended up having Javier face Trot. . . . I think we™d all be more comfortable if nobody was on base, but Trot hadn™t faced a lot of lefties in a pretty good period of time. He had a pretty good at-bat.

Repeat: The story here is not that Lopez gave up a hit to Trot Nixon. It was what happened pre-Lopez that doomed the Red Sox.

Before last night™s – er, this morning™s – latest Gagne meltdown, the Red Sox seemed to have come to an understanding on how to use the bearded righty in the postseason: only when they have a great, big, fat lead. In Game 3 of the Division Series, he was brought in with a 9-0 lead. He gave up a run. He pitched a scoreless inning of mop-up with a 10-3 lead in Game 1 of the ALCS, but not before giving up a couple of hits and a walk.