Sox get together and pound A's for 11 more runs
Don't mistake John W. Henry's forecast last week of better days ahead, made while Red Sox fortunes were bottoming out in New York, as a random prayer hurled into cyberspace.
It was not a prayer at all, but a calculation, in response to a direct question, based on his reading of the relevant numbers. That is how, after all, the man makes his living.
Two games may not a trend make, but after applying another big-time whipping on the Oakland A's -- an 11-3 decision the night after smoking the A's, 11-0 -- the Sox were giving their principal owner, sitting in his usual seat adjacent to the Sox' dugout, abundant reasons to feel even more bullish about their prospects in the season's second half.
Henry is not alone. Last night's winning pitcher, the non-All-Star Pedro Martinez, is of like mind.
"I'm very happy with the way we're playing and scoring runs," said Martinez, who has won five decisions in a row, hasn't lost since May 16, and in 14 of his 18 starts this season has departed with a lead or a tie score. "I'm happy to be back at home and start over from the ugly road trip we had . . . The way the team looks right now and the way we are going about our offense, a lot of teams are going to have a hard time with us. If we stay healthy, we won't have anything happen like in the first half."
Mark Bellhorn's first-inning home run off lefthander Mark Redman and a five-run second inning, triggered by Nomar Garciaparra's home run to dead center field, gave Martinez sufficient cushion to cruise to his ninth win against three losses.
The Sox have won four of five games this season from the A's, one of the teams ahead of them in the wild-card race, and in all five of those games the Sox have dismissed the A's starting pitcher before he completed six innings.
"That's two days in a row that we've run into some hot bats against our lefthanded starters," said A's manager Ken Macha, who watched Barry Zito endure a similar fate Tuesday night and will be coming back with young righthander Rich Harden tonight against Sox ace Curt Schilling.
Redman lasted just 2 2/3 innings as the Sox banged out 15 hits. Bill Mueller, whose three-run home run jump-started this homestand Tuesday night, had three more hits last night, while five Sox -- Johnny Damon, Bellhorn, Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, and Gabe Kapler -- had two apiece. The Sox, who were 7 for 17 with runners in scoring position, have 32 hits and 22 runs the last two nights.
"I would like to sit here and tell you it was 12," manager Terry Francona said about playing well on two consecutive nights. "We started last night, and we played a good one tonight. You talk about having confidence and things like that, but you have to do it.
"And we're starting to do that."
Martinez encountered one significant bump all evening -- a 32-pitch third inning in which the A's scored all of their runs -- but then allowed just two more hits before turning the game over to the bullpen after seven innings and 102 pitches. Martinez walked one and struck out seven and basked in the warmth of a standing ovation from a crowd of 35,012.
It was his farewell appearance before he travels -- not to Houston, and a game against the National League All-Stars, but home to the Dominican Republic, a trip that should hardly spark the controversy last year's early (and excused) departure precipitated.
Martinez said he intends to go home for just a day, then fly to Anaheim, Calif., where he innocently revealed Francona's closed hand and said he expects to pitch the second game after the break. Francona has said he didn't want to announce his pitching plans until after Schilling goes tonight, but it would appear likely that Schilling will take the ball in the first game after the break, Thursday against the Angels.
"Going into the second half, thanks to God, I haven't missed a start yet," Martinez said. "I feel great. We're getting ready to pick it up in the second half and see what we can do."
Manny Ramirez, who merely needs to maintain his first-half pace to put up monster numbers, homered over the Coke bottles on the first pitch thrown by reliever Chad Bradford in the seventh. Thirty-four times this season, Ramirez has been the first batter faced by a new pitcher. On those occasions, he is 13 for 29 (.448) with four home runs, four walks, and a hit by pitch.
It was another night when the Sox' lineup, which had failed to produce while being swept by the Yankees and dropping two of three to the Braves, appeared devoid of soft touches. Indeed, every starter had at least one hit with the surprising exception of David Ortiz, who for much of this season has carried the club.
Ortiz was hitless in five at-bats and is now 0 for his last 18.
Garciaparra, on the receiving end of some of the harshest criticism of his career after missing the last game of the Yankee series, continued his torrid hitting. He added a double to the third home run of his abbreviated season and is now batting .500 (11 for 22) in his last five games.
The Sox, now a game behind the A's in the wild-card race and six behind the Yankees in the AL East, broke it open after Garciaparra's home run in the second. Kevin Millar drew a walk, advanced to second alertly on a wild pitch, and scored when Varitek, trying to move the runner over, scratched a double past first baseman Scott Hatteberg. Mueller followed with a base hit, Varitek stopping at third, and after Kapler popped out, Damon shot a ground-ball single through the left side, scoring Varitek. Two more runs scored when A's third baseman Mark McLemore threw away Bellhorn's infield hit.
Doubles by Marco Scutaro and Hatteberg were the big hits in the A's third, which also featured Ramirez kicking Hatteberg's hit soccer-style into center field for an extra base, but Martinez struck out Jermaine Dye to end the inning and was unruffled thereafter.
Mueller's two-out single scored Garciaparra in the third, and his double started a two-run sixth.
"We ran into a team that's incredibly hot," Hatteberg said. "They're firing on all cylinders."