Seldom are 35,000 fans heard demanding a curtain call after a great defensive play, but in the case of Pokey Reese, he's heard it at Fenway Park before and if his Red Sox teammates and manager Terry Francona were to make an educated guess, they think the acrobatic infielder will hear it again.
Reese never came out for a bow before the bottom of the seventh, but his spectacular leaping grab of Dave Roberts's liner in the top of the inning, which ended a Dodger rally and protected Pedro Martinez's three-run lead, certainly warranted one.
"I tried to get him to go out there and take a bow, but he wouldn't do it," said Kevin Millar. "It was unbelievable."
In the end, Reese's play, with two on and two out, right after Nomar Garciaparra had muffed Alex Cora's grounder -- though it was scored a hit -- was perfect timing on a night when Martinez wasn't overpowering, but very good nonetheless, in a 4-1 Sox win over Los Angeles. "I can dunk [a basketball]," said Reese, "but I think that was about as far as I could go. It was a big play because if I don't make it, Pedro comes out of that game. Pedro looks like the Pedro of old, so I'm happy I was able to help him out there."
Francona only saw Reese's catch on replay because he thought the ball was heading to the gap and he was looking down at some notes and contemplating his next move. "It's not shocking," the manager said. "He impacts the game defensively all the time."
Nor was it shocking to see him double Shawn Green off first after snaring Paul Lo Duca's liner in the sixth. The combination of defense, Martinez, and a three-run fourth was enough for the Sox to end this interleague homestand at 4-2 as they embark on a six-game road trip through Denver and San Francisco.The Sox kept pace with the Yankees, who posted yet another come-from-behind win to maintain their 3 1/2-game lead in the American League East. But with news that Trot Nixon will return Wednesday, the Sox will have nearly their entire projected starting lineup healthy. Still missing is third baseman Bill Mueller (knee surgery), who will join the team in San Francisco next weekend to begin his road back sometime around or after the All-Star break.Martinez, who improved to 7-3, allowed just one run on seven hits while walking two and striking out five. He threw 113 pitches in stringing his second straight excellent start on the homestand. Last Tuesday, Martinez defeated the Padres, 1-0, allowing a measley two hits over eight innings with one walk and eight strikeouts. Martinez didn't win his seventh game until after the All-Star break last season. "I didn't feel as well as I did against San Diego," said Martinez, who has held a 10-year grudge against the Dodgers for trading him to Montreal in 1993 for Delino DeShields. "This team made it more uncomfortable for me out there than San Diego." The Sox ace, like most of the Red Sox, was more excited about Reese's amazing catch. "Is that real?" he asked.Mike Timlin retired the first two men he faced in the eighth, and lefty Alan Embree struck out lefthanded-hitting Green for the final out in the eighth. Keith Foulke pitched the ninth to record his 13th save. It was quite a turnaround after the Dodgers spanked the Sox, 14-5, Saturday afternoon.
"This game . . . one day you leave the ballpark and you're searching and you feel bad and everything you wanted to go right didn't," said Francona. "And then you show up the next night and starting with Pedro, Timlin, Embree, Foulke, it goes the way it's supposed to. That's why when people talk about momentum it really does start and end with your starting pitching."
The Sox were able to break open a 1-1 game with three runs in the fourth off Hideo Nomo, who would not survive the inning. The big hits were Gabe Kapler's double to left-center scoring Garciaparra, who walked and stole second on Jason Varitek's strikeout. After Nomo plunked Millar, Kapler delivered. Millar and Kapler scored on Reese's Wall-scraping double to left field. It took a pitching change to Wilson Alvarez to quiet the uprising. Martinez, who is now 2-3 against the Dodgers, allowed his only run in the first when Milton Bradley singled in Roberts. Bradley was caught in a run down, which proved costly because Green followed with a single. But Martinez was able to escape further harm when he blew a fastball by Lo Duca.
"It looked to me that Pedro wasn't comfortable in that first inning," Francona said. "He wasn't what I would say herky-jerky because he's never that, but once he got into a groove he pitched very well."
Dressed in Dodger blue was former Sox righthander Nomo, who spent the 2001 season in Boston and left as a free agent, never able to embrace Boston. Nomo also had first-inning difficulty as Manny Ramirez's single to right scored Johnny Damon to tie it. Damon had led off with a single to right and then stole second base. Damon moved to third on David Ortiz's double-play grounder. Nomo followed a path similar to Martinez by striking out Garciaparra swinging to end the inning. But after the offensive preliminaries this was Reese's game.
"They should give the win to Pokey," said Martinez.