ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If he has suffered, he has suffered in silence.
Edgar Renteria doesn't say much when he's in the Red Sox clubhouse. The Colombian-born shortstop is not particularly comfortable with the English language and he appears to be quiet by nature. His game has been quiet, too, since he signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the Red Sox last winter.
And the vultures have been circling. Radio guys have been calling him ''Rent-a-wreck," and this space yesterday dared submit that he's been playing like Jose Offerman. Ouch. Low blow.
Before yesterday's series finale with the Angels, Sox manager Terry Francona launched into yet another defense of Renteria, concluding with, ''He's a good player."
We want to believe. We've been waiting almost five months to see the Renteria who earned raved reviews in his nine years in the National League.
So just about the time the Route 6 traffic was backing up to Hyannis early yesterday evening, Renteria finally delivered for the Red Sox. He broke open a scoreless game with a two-out three-run homer off Paul Byrd in the top of the eighth. The Sox went on to win, 5-1, but we'll never know how it might have turned out if Renteria didn't produce the game-breaker.
There were signs that he was ready to do something special. He'd already crushed a couple of Byrd's serves when he walked to the plate for the final time. He'd also pummeled a couple of pitches in Saturday's loss. It was his defense (23 errors) that was hurting the Sox most.
Theo Epstein, the boy wonder general manager who signed Renteria after the World Series, makes no attempt to inflate Renteria's accomplishments in Boston thus far.
''He's played fairly well, but I think his best days with the Red Sox are ahead of him," said the GM. ''He's capable of more. He's done well, but there's more in there than we've seen."
''I know he's made some errors, but I still consider him reliable," Francona said. ''You watch him on defense and you wonder if his legs are sore or if his back is sore. At the same time, his bat is so active. When a guy is dragging a little, that's not usually when you see his bat get aggressive."
Though Renteria's bat has been ''aggressive," it's also been relatively powerless through the summer months. When he walked to the plate in the eighth yesterday, he'd batted 199 times without hitting a home run. His blast on a 1-0 pitch was his first four-bagger since June 22.
''It's about time," Renteria said as he dressed and prepared for the flight to Kansas City. ''It was a good one, too, yeah? It feels good because we won the game."
This was a key blow. The Sox were in danger of falling to 2-5 on a trip that now takes them to Kansas City to face the white-hot (two straight) Royals. Now they have the satisfaction of a split in Anaheim and still lead the Yankees by four. After Kansas City, the Red Sox play 24 of their final 36 at Fenway, where they are 38-18.
Meanwhile, though Renteria's defense continues to be surprisingly shaky, the shortstop is hitting .342 with a team-high nine doubles this month. He's also got 15 RBIs in August. Since the All-Star break he's hitting .312. He's hit in 11 of his last 13 games. So though he hasn't yet played like a $10 million-a-season player, he's no Offerman, either.
Captain Jason Varitek said: ''He's a tremendous teammate. He moves runners over and does the little things. Driving the ball is the least of his game, but he's a very intelligent baseball player. He goes out and plays every single day. I'm extremely happy for him today. We needed this one and that's a huge home run."
Renteria's slow start at the plate put him in the doghouse with Sox fans and his defense hasn't been what anyone expected from the veteran. But he appears more comfortable, on and off the field, as the Sox prepare for the final six weeks of the season. He even made a few jokes, poking fun at David Ortiz's bunt single, saying, ''We've got a new leadoff man."
No matter what happens, Renteria forever will be a part of Red Sox history. He hit the ball that went back to Keith Foulke and officially ended an 86-year Boston baseball championship drought.
Now we wait. The manager waits, the GM waits, and Red Sox Nation waits to see the player who was respected and feared in his championship days in the National League.
''Start Me Up" on stage at Fenway last night? Mick should have dedicated it to Edgar.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.