RED SOX 11, BLUE JAYS 5
Four Red Sox homers write off Blue Jays
TORONTO -- If the faithful among Red Sox Nation looked to the sky late last night, they may have been convinced that it was aglow with a late-summer display of Northern Lights. Instead, it was the fireworks grand finale to a dazzling, 11-5 drubbing of the Blue Jays that had the Sox belting out four home runs and 17 hits in what they turned once more into their SkyDomeHome.
"We're going good right now," said Manny Ramirez, who had one of those four homers, his coming in a game-changing, five-run fourth inning. "And I think the key is, everyone is playing hard."
All the work last night translated into 6 1/3 strong innings from starter Curt Schilling (16-6) and the long balls from David Ortiz (two), Orlando Cabrera, and Ramirez, whose two-run shot increased his RBI total to 102.
Ortiz, who had been 0 for 9 in the series before launching his first homer, finished with four RBIs, Cabrera with three, and Ramirez with two as the Sox finished the road trip with a 5-1 record.
"We want to beat everybody," said Sox skipper Terry Francona, his charges 16-6 since Aug. 2. "At this time of year, we have to win games."
It was the third time in the six-game trip that the Sox logged double figures in runs. They opened the trip with 10-1 and 10-7 victories at Chicago. For the trip, they outscored the ChiSox and Blue Jays by an aggregate 42-25.
For all their power and might, success and sizzle, the Sox have found it hard to move within easy reach of the Yankees in the East (though they did gain last night, moving to within 5 1/2 games, with New York's 4-3 loss at Cleveland) or gain elbow room on the other wild-card wannabes in the American League. They are back to .500 on the road, all facets of their game seem to be coming together, yet there is no certainty they will play beyond Oct. 2.
Would another run of 16-6 assure them of dates beyond the standard 162? Perhaps. But only perhaps.
If they keep hitting like last night, though, they no doubt will keep up their torrid pace of late. For the third night in a row, the Jays were first to crack the scoreboard, nicking Schilling for a run in the second. But the the Sox crushed them asunder with the five runs in the fourth and four more in the seventh, when Ortiz sent out his second shot of the night, a two-run blast.
"To have even one of those guys is something," said Schilling, musing over the riches of having both Ramirez and Ortiz in the thick of the order. "To have them both in the middle of the lineup like that is a huge plus."
Ramirez delivered the first two runs in the fourth with his league-leading 34th roundtripper of the season, picking up Johnny Damon (leadoff double) for the 2-1 lead. Ortiz followed with an elliptical moonshot down the right-field line for the 3-1 lead. Two batters later, after a Bill Mueller single, Cabrera cracked his homer. For only the 44th time in franchise history, the Sox had the home run hat trick in one inning, and they came over the space of only four batters. The lead was up to 5-1, and the season record was essentially inked at 72-53.
Ramirez was on first with a walk in the seventh when Ortiz delivered his second blast, knocking the lead up to 8-1. Later in the inning, Cabrera and Mark Bellhorn each knocked in runs, the Sox running away with their 14th win over the Jays this season -- a Boston best against the southern Ontarians.
Schilling, who threw 99 pitches, easily could have gone longer, according to both Francona and the prized righthander, but there was little point in that with the lead up to 10-1 after 6 1/2 innings. Schilling came to the mound in the seventh, fanned Gregg Zaun for career strikeout No. 2,700, then turned the ball over to reliever Terry Adams.
"On a night like tonight, no sense in asking him to go more," said Francona of Schilling, who threw 71 pitches for strikes. "He didn't have to go out for the seventh, but the only reason he did was because [Adams] wasn't warmed up yet."
Schilling now has won three in a row and has lost only twice since June 16. He said he felt he had his best fastball in weeks, truly an encouraging sign this late in the season when power pitchers can so often begin to wilt under the weight of piled up innings.
Now it's home to face the Tigers (four games beginning tonight), followed by three against the Angels and three more vs. Texas -- the latter two clubs each with designs on securing at least a wild-card berth.
As it has been all season, there is little room to breathe. But the way the Sox are huffing and puffing right now, they might be able to blow anyone's house down -- perhaps even the one that Ruth built.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.