The Good Sox and the Bad Sox.
These days, one has no idea which Red Sox team is going to show up. The Good Sox returned yesterday at Fenway Park, just in time for their huge three-game series in the Bronx starting tomorrow night. While hardly a team bursting with confidence, Boston will enter the series against the Yankees on the heels of a 12-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, against whom they won two out of three.
Desperate to avoid reverting to the Bad Sox, who leave runners on, commit errors at inopportune times, and underachieve, the team knows a showing by the Good Sox will be crucial in New York, with Boston trailing the Bronx Bombers by 5 1/2 games in the American League East.
Manager Terry Francona said the Red Sox had a "tremendous dugout" yesterday, with teammates trying to get each other going and concentrating on the moment. Francona singled out catcher Jason Varitek as "a professional winner" and "I continue to marvel at the kind of teammate he is." And those words came on a day Varitek went 0 for 4.
Said Varitek of the win, "It was important for our morale. To pick up the [rubber] game of the series and find a way to win, it was very important for our team."
Of course, the Sox can't pitch Curt Schilling every day. On a sun-splashed afternoon, Schilling went six innings and threw 110 pitches. He gave up a pair of long balls to Pat Burrell and David Bell in the second inning, and trailed, 3-0, before the Sox put up a four-spot in the third and never looked back.
Schilling, who joined a list of 10-game winners that includes Jason Schmidt, Kenny Rogers, and Roger Clemens, put on a show at key moments. He struck out Jim Thome with a man on in the fifth with a 97-mile-per-hour fastball, and in the sixth he fanned Jason Michaels and Todd Pratt with two on to conclude his workday.
Schilling, who has an ERA of 3.24, is now tied with Minnesota's Johan Santana for the league lead with 100 strikeouts, and he's also tied for first with Oakland's Mark Mulder with 111 innings pitched.
The bullpen -- Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, and Keith Foulke -- had no problem holding the lead, and the Good Sox lineup did it all.
There was some impressive clutch hitting, like in the third, when Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra hit back-to-back ground-rule doubles, each scoring two runs. David Ortiz hit a two-run homer in the fifth, and Bellhorn's three-run homer in the eighth concluded an offensive showing big enough to end the homestand at 3-3.
Schilling, Ramirez, and Ortiz always seem to be Good Sox.
"That's why they're hitting where they are," said Francona about Ramirez and Ortiz.
"And that's why we got Schill. I thought he really showed a lot. When he reached back in that sixth inning, he was getting to be about out of gas, but I saw him hit 97. That's not just being a good pitcher. That's having a lot of heart."
If there's a downer, it's that Schilling won't be available for the Yankee series. The Sox will go with Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield, and Pedro Martinez. But Schilling, who will take his fourth MRI today to make sure the bone bruise on his right ankle hasn't worsened, wanted to put the Sox back on the right course for the upcoming series.
"I came out in the first inning and warmed up and didn't feel strong," said Schilling, who had to overcome a lot of first-pitch swinging by the Phillies. "Then Pat [Burrell] hits the home run on a pitch I wanted to throw. It's one of those things that happens at this level. Then I made a mistake to David [Bell], and that kind of forced me out of my routine as far as pitch selection. I started throwing a lot of breaking pitches, started getting behind on the count. I was [ticked off] after the third inning the way I was pitching."
And then he got the old pick-me-up -- a four-run bottom of the third. The Sox got to Brett Myers, who walked No. 9 hitter Kevin Youkilis with one out before Johnny Damon singled to left. Bellhorn then singled to center, loading the bases.
Ortiz struck out, but then came the ground-rule doubles by Ramirez and Garciaparra.
"I just hope to do my part," Ramirez said. "You want to help out. You want get the big hit when your turn comes up, and Ortiz is doing that better than anybody right now."
Ortiz used his majestic swing to hit his 19th home run, with Bellhorn on via a walk, in the fifth. He's hit six homers in his last eight games and has 28 RBIs in his last 23 games. He has 72 RBIs in 74 games overall.
By the eighth, the Sox still had life in their bats. Flame-throwing lefty Billy Wagner recorded the first two outs easily, but then Kevin Millar stroked a double to left. Youkilis blooped a single to right that scored pinch runner Gabe Kapler. And after a Damon single, Bellhorn, who went 2 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs, connected on a three-run blast to center on the first pitch from Wagner.
After the game, the Sox had a picnic with their families at Fenway. A just reward for the Good Sox, who hope they can keep the Bad Sox from showing up in New York.