Terry Francona is not a manager known for calling a lot of team meetings. There he was, cramming his position players into his tiny office shortly before 6 p.m. yesterday to remind them of a few things. Mainly, how good they are. The powwow was short and apparently quite effective.
Boosted by a splendid performance from starter Pedro Martinez, Kevin Millar's new orange-blond hair, and five RBIs and a great catch by Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox throttled the Philadelphia Phillies, 12-1, in an eight-inning, rain-shortened affair at Fenway.
"It was just a little surprise get-together," Francona said of the meeting. "I just wanted to remind them of a few things. It was no big deal."
Millar, who believes quirky things can sometimes shake a team up, said of Francona's impromptu gathering, "You just have to be reminded, `Hey guys, play hard.' Everyone plays hard here. There's no lack of effort. Everyone here is busting their butt so we know it's a matter of time and we know this lineup is coming together."
The game was called following a 49-minute delay -- which featured some serious thunder and lightning -- in the bottom of the eighth. By that time the Sox had inflicted enough damage on their guests.
Martinez improved to 8-3 and his ERA continued its downward spiral to 3.73 as the Boston ace allowed just two hits and one earned run -- a Jim Thome home run in the seventh. He improved his record to 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last four starts against National League teams.
Among Ramirez's five RBIs was his 20th home run in the second and a three-run double off reliever Brian Powell in Ramirez's second at-bat of the sixth inning. Earlier in the inning, Ramirez was robbed of a home run when right fielder Bobby Abreu reached into the bullpen and snagged his drive.
The Sox slugger, not known for his defense, and who had joked that he had lost his campaign for a Gold Glove with a misplay against the Dodgers two weeks ago, seemed to get back in the race with a diving catch toward the left-field line that Martinez called "one of the best I've seen from an outfielder. I did not think he had a chance whatsoever."
"I think now he can win that Gold Glove again," chimed in David Ortiz in the happy Sox clubhouse.
Martinez waited for Ramirez to pick himself off the ground and then celebrated with him.
"We have our own rituals and I just congratulated him in a way. In a sense we say, `Yeah!' like we say when we point to each other. Then I gave him a high-five because he knows exactly what I mean when I'm waiting for him."
The Sox led, 10-1, at the time, but it was an important play for Martinez, who had tightened up during the bottom of the sixth, which lasted more than a half-hour. Martinez had allowed his only blemish -- Thome's homer -- and then walked Pat Burrell before retiring the next three hitters, topped off by Ramirez's catch.
The night was warm and Martinez seemed loose enough to get over his recent first-inning struggles. Martinez, mixing in an occasional 93-94-mile-per-hour fastball with an array of breaking stuff, was dominant. He retired the first seven Phillies, and he did it economically. In fact, he was so stingy with his pitches, he fanned only two Phillies across seven innings. He didn't allow a base runner until he plunked catcher Mike Lieberthal with a pitch in the third on an 0-and-2 offering. Martinez seemed annoyed that Lieberthal made little effort to elude the pitch. He caught the throw back to him barehanded, then retired the next two batters to escape the inning.
"It was very difficult to warm up," Martinez said about his extended rest during the bottom of the sixth. "And when I wanted to take some extra warmups, the umpire went, `Two more!' I did not want to let go at that point. Especially with an open game, I just wanted to get the ball over the plate, and Thome hit it out."
Ramirez's home run in the second and an Ortiz double had staked Martinez to a 2-0 lead heading into the sixth.
Those were just the preliminaries. Before it was over, third baseman Kevin Youkilis was among the offensive leaders with a pair of two-run doubles -- one in the sixth and one in the seventh. The Sox wore out starter Paul Abbott as well as successors Roberto Hernandez and Powell in the sixth and seventh, when they scored 10 runs.
The Sox sent 12 batters up in the sixth, starting with Ortiz's homer. Then, with two outs, the Sox bats came alive. The next eight batters reached as Jason Varitek, Youkilis, Mark Bellhorn, and Ramirez collected RBIs. It was one of those nights when everything went right. The Sox have had plenty of them this season. What's been missing is consistency. Millar can't change his hair color every night. Francona can't have a meeting every night. The true test comes today and tomorrow, and next week in the Bronx.