Ramirez rips mammoth HR but Jays steal one from Sox
Something is off with Keith Foulke, something "mechanical," he said, but Foulke is a man of much emotion and minimal explanation. So, to seek out exactly what ails him is a difficult quest.
"I'm not going to sit here and talk mechanics," Foulke said last night in the wake of a 4-3 loss, his second of the season. "I'm [expletive] up."
In seven appearances, Foulke is now 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. In eight innings, he's allowed 15 base runners (8 hits, 5 walks, 2 hit batsmen). Last night, his line was a slow bleed. He entered in the ninth with the game tied at 3-3, recorded one out, then allowed four straight Blue Jays to reach (hit by pitch, walk, single, single).
The last single, by cleanup hitter Corey Koskie, plated the decisive run and sent the Sox, who'd led, 3-1, after seven innings, to defeat before 35,598 at Fenway.
Last night's defining moment, though, was not Foulke's difficulties, or Vernon Wells's two-run, tying homer off Alan Embree in the eighth.
No, the tale of the tape was Manny Ramirez's first-inning home run, a tape-measure shot if there ever was one.
"Farthest ball I've ever seen a human being hit," said Kevin Millar. "It was like the movie `The Natural.' "
No one ever will know how far the ball traveled because the Sox PR department does not estimate home run distances. But this much is known: It cleared the left-field light tower. In June 2001, also against the Blue Jays, Ramirez unloaded on a ball that clanged the lights in the same tower. That blast was estimated at 501 feet out of deference to Ted Williams's 502-foot shot in 1946 that landed 37 rows up in the bleachers.
"The deference might be out the window now," said manager Terry Francona.
Ramirez's bomb was stunning to his teammates on multiple levels: the pure distance, the distance given the pitch (a 77 mile-per-hour curveball), and the quality of the pitcher (Roy Halladay).
"He recognized it," Millar said of the pitch type, "and he exploded through the zone. It was awesome."
The homer counted for only one run, though, staking the Sox to a 1-0 lead that stood up until the sixth inning. Bronson Arroyo, all the while, was repeatedly on the precipice of danger, only to bail himself out. The Jays helped, leaving eight men on base in Arroyo's seven innings, including four in scoring position and three on third base.
Arroyo fanned Wells swinging in the first with two men on with a 92 m.p.h. fastball away, a harbinger of things to come.
"His fastball made his outing tonight," said catcher Jason Varitek.
Arroyo made some mistakes, no question, but the only blunder that cost him was an 0-and-1 changeup in the sixth that Koskie clubbed into the Sox bullpen, tying the game at 1-1.
Come the bottom of the seventh, David Ortiz put Arroyo in position to win. Halladay delivered a cut fastball, and Ortiz turned on it, propelling it deep into the right-field seats and the Sox to a 3-1 lead.
The Sox had not lost in Arroyo's previous 11 decisions, dating to Aug. 21, 2004, and with Embree (eight appearances, 2.35 ERA) jogging in for the eighth, the Sox were working on an even dozen.
But Embree, the team's best reliever to date, allowed a Koskie single and a Wells homer that bounced on top of the wall in dead center.
"It was a fastball away," said Embree, who seemed more awed by Wells's swing than he did disappointed in himself. "He just got it. I've got to him credit there."
That sent the game to the ninth tied at 3-3, and Foulke promptly recorded one out. Then, facing the top of the order, he hit Catalanotto (who didn't move at all) in the leg and walked Gregg Zaun on a full-count changeup.
"You don't see that too often from Foulkie," Francona said.
Reed Johnson ran for Catalanotto, and the next batter, Shea Hillenbrand, singled to left. Jay Payton, who'd come in for Ramirez (nagging quad) in the eighth inning, scooped up the ball just after Johnson rounded third and unleashed a low, hard throw.
"It was great," said Varitek, who moved a few feet toward first base to catch Payton's laser, then lurched at Johnson. Varitek missed the tag, and Johnson missed the plate. When they both popped to their feet, Varitek had the ball and positioning between the plate and Johnson, whom he tagged for the out.
But then Koskie singled, his second RBI of the game.
The Sox managed to put two men on in the ninth before leaving the tying run at third. David McCarty, who entered in the seventh as a pinch runner for Millar, legged out a broken-bat infield single, and Varitek mustered a two-out, broken-bat single to left center. But the inning, and the game, ended with McCarty at third when Ramon Vazquez, playing for the ill Bill Mueller, popped to center.
"We had a chance to steal one," said Francona, whose 8-6 team left last night for a two-game set at Baltimore, to be followed by three at Tampa Bay.