Clement stops Rangers
ARLINGTON, Texas -- These are gut-check times.
Times when a team could use bullpen woes as an excuse for going into a tailspin, throwing up its collective hands and saying, ''How can we do it?" That the Red Sox did not do that in beating the Texas Rangers in two of three games is what impressed the players and manager Terry Francona following last night's 7-4 win.
''What choice do we have?" said third baseman Bill Mueller. ''You go out there and play baseball the best you can. All teams go through trying times, not just once but probably a few times during the course of a season. You let it affect you, what good is that? This team has always gone out there and put that stuff out of their minds. That's what you've got to do. As everyday players, we don't go on the field thinking our bullpen is going through a tough time. Just play."
And so they did.
With the second-place Orioles idle, the Sox added another a half-game to their advantage in the American League East, and now lead by four games the team they'll play in a four-game set starting tonight at Camden Yards.
They did it with a second consecutive clutch starting pitching performance in as many nights. On Tuesday, Tim Wakefield went eight innings as the Sox beat the Rangers, 7-4, and last night, All-Star snub Matt Clement threw 122 pitches over 8 2/3 innings to earn his 10th win. Alan Embree struck out Gary Matthews with one on in the ninth to earn the save.
The Sox learned yesterday they will be dealing with major adjustments to the bullpen, with closer Keith Foulke undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery today in Boston, and Curt Schilling pitching in relief tonight in Pawtucket, R.I., to adjust to a new role in the bullpen once he returns from rehabilitating his ankle injury.
''We've all thrown a lot down there [in the bullpen] and Mike [Timlin] needed a day off," said Embree. ''After Matt did tremendous work, it all worked out very well. It was nice to get out there in that situation again and do the job."
Rangers starter Chan Ho Park clung to a 2-0 lead until the Sox got to him for three runs in the sixth, and then scored four in the seventh against the Texas bullpen to open up some breathing room.
David Ortiz knocked in three runs, smacking his 21st homer in the sixth and then delivering a two-run single to left-center in the seventh, beating the Rangers' infield shift, with second baseman Alfonso Soriano in short right field and shortstop Michael Young near second base.
The Sox' uprising in the seventh came against reliever Kameron Loe and was started by No. 9 hitter Mark Bellhorn, who walked and advanced to second base on Johnny Damon's single to right, which extended his hitting streak to a career-best 22 games. After Edgar Renteria's swinging bunt advanced the runners to scoring position, Ortiz came through.
''I thought that was a big play by Renteria," said Damon, who was relieved late in the game by Jay Payton, partly because his right shoulder and neck was hurting from his diving catch in the ninth inning Tuesday night. ''Because of that shift on David, we caught a break. This was a big win for us and big series for us. We lost our closer, we're not doing that great, but we're happy where we are right now. We're doing a lot better under the circumstances than people think."
After Manny Ramirez doubled, sending Ortiz to third, Trot Nixon was walked intentionally to load the bases for Kevin Millar, who dropped what would normally have been a single in front of a sliding Kevin Mench in left field. Ortiz scored the Sox' sixth run, but Ramirez failed to advance to third and was forced out. Jason Varitek continued the inning by beating out an infield hit to third, plating Nixon with the seventh run.
With the Sox' bullpen at full strength, Clement probably would not have pitched the eighth, but he got the Rangers in order, and got the first two outs of the ninth before giving up a single to Sandy Alomar, and giving way to Embree.
''I'm so proud of him," Francona said of Clement. ''That's the word I'd use. He was courageous out there. Wake gave us the same type of performance [Tuesday] night and Matt just battled so hard."
Clement surrendered back-to-back homers to Dave Dellucci and Michael Young in the third inning. Dellucci hit another, a two-run shot in the seventh, but that was all the Rangers got.
''I don't think I felt any pressure out there," said Clement. ''I just got into a good rhythm and pitched well against a great lineup. Thankfully I was able to get deep into the game."