|Manny Ramírez and David Ortiz are arm in arm after Ramírez's second homer. (MARK DUNCAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Ramírez, Red Sox go boom
He homers twice to lead 17-hit explosion
CLEVELAND -- The postgame dinner was filet mignon, a treat for a Red Sox team that had won three of four against the wild-card-leading Indians at Jacobs Field.
They carefully carved up their food much as they carved up the Indians' pitching staff in a 14-9 victory in which the Sox broke out with 17 hits, including monster games by Manny Ramírez and Wily Mo Peña, each of whom drove in four runs.
Ramírez did it with two homers (Nos. 16 and 17), including a 481-foot shot, while the much-maligned Peña went 4 for 5 in the No. 9 hole subbing for J.D. Drew against the Indians' starter, lefthander Cliff Lee.
With their mouths full, this wasn't a team about to make too many statements as they prepared for a 2-hour-25-minute trek to Tampa Bay, but they made a statement nonetheless. Although the prevailing thought in baseball the past two weeks is the Detroit Tigers are the best team in the American League, the Red Sox keep giving pundits reason to believe they should also be in that echelon.
"We know from our experience last year that we can't go around making statements like we're the best and all that stuff," said Sox utilityman Alex Cora. "But I will say we beat one of the best teams in their home ballpark. Our goal is to win series no matter who we're playing and we accomplished that. But what we can't do is go down to Tampa Bay and feel all good about ourselves based on [last night]. We have to turn the page.
"I know a lot of people believe we fell out of contention last year after that Yankees series [five straight losses in August ], but for us, it was really that trip before it, to Tampa Bay and Kansas City [Aug. 4-10], when we lost two out of three to Tampa and then got swept by Kansas City. That was the beginning of a bad time for us. I hope we remember that when we get to Tampa Bay this weekend."
After winning the series opener in an emotional performance by Jon Lester and splitting a pair of 1-0 games Tuesday and Wednesday, last night's starter, Kason Gabbard, fell apart staked to a 9-1 lead. But the Sox offense, which had been quiet of late, picked him up.
"It's kind of embarrassing to have a 9-1 lead and not be able to finish the [fifth] inning," said Gabbard, who allowed five runs, walked three, and struck out three in 4 2/3 innings. "I think I was just trying to be too perfect after I walked [Jhonny Peralta] and I was getting the ball up and my sinker was gone. I know that I can't wait to make my next start."
Gabbard had been one of Boston's biggest surprises, going 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four starts before last night. Scouts from Kansas City, Baltimore, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay were on hand to watch him, impressed with Gabbard's advancement. And though Franklin Gutierrez homered in the third, Gabbard breezed through four innings, and retired Ryan Garko to lead off the fifth before the roof caved in.
"I tried to go with him as long as I could so he could get the win," said manager Terry Francona, "but you just knew it was time to go get him. I thought Julian [Tavarez] did a nice job in getting out of the inning [bases loaded, two outs]. He did a nice job early on until he got touched up for the homer [a three-run shot by Garko in the seventh]."
The Sox broke it open with a five-run fifth off Lee and Peña added some late fireworks with a three-run homer in the seventh.
Ramírez's first home run was a pure swing, Lee's first pitch hitting the sweet spot as he led off the second inning. His home run sailed over the trees in left-center field, measured at 481 feet, the third-longest home run in Jacobs Field history.
"That ball was just smoked," said first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "You can't hit one any harder or longer than that."
"That ball was crushed," added David Ortiz.
It was Ramírez's 486th home run as he continued his assault on lefthanded pitching. He was hitting .382 (34 for 89) vs. lefties entering the game. No. 487 came against righthander Jensen Lewis in the eighth.
After the game, Ramírez said, "No thank you" to reporters wanting to speak to him.
He seemed to be in the center of the Sox offense, as he walked to lead off the fourth and triggered a two-run inning that culminated in Jason Varitek's two-run single. Lee walked Youkilis and surrendered a single to right to Mike Lowell to load the bases for Varitek.
The Sox scored in the third on Dustin Pedroia's double-play grounder after Peña and Julio Lugo singled.
Lee started the fifth as poorly as he started the second, third, and fourth.
Pedroia singled to left, Ortiz walked, and Ramírez had another sweet stroke for a double to left to knock in Pedroia. After Youkilis reached on an error by Peralta at shortstop, Lowell knocked in a pair with a single up the middle. Varitek grounded into a double play, but Coco Crisp singled to left off reliever Jason Stanford and Peña stroked a long double to right-center accounting for the fifth run of the inning and a 9-1 lead.
"We beat a very good team in their home park," Francona said. "We just wanted to win the game."
They might have also won a little more respect.