Red Sox revive an old number and show no mercy against the arm-weary Yankees
Sandy Nixon had a standing agreement with her Little League-playing son, Trot, who turned 11 the year
''She told me she'd buy me some new Air Jordans if I hit an inside-the-park home run," Nixon recalled last night. ''And she did. I won't be getting any Air Jordans tonight. I'll just get an oxygen mask."
If one moment could encapsulate last night's 17-1 demolition of the Yankees, Nixon's inside-the-park homer, his first in approximately two decades, was it. Sure, Nixon put a nice swing on the ball, with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in scoring position. But, as manager Terry Francona pointed out, ''that potentially is not even a sac fly with [Melky] Cabrera coming in and David [running]."
Instead, the ball ''took a hard right," Nixon said. Cabrera flailed, and failed. The ball trickled to the Wall and Nixon scored standing up, stretching a 5-0 lead to 8-0. In the second inning.
Yankee pitchers -- yes, plural -- had recorded only four outs and the game was effectively over, the Red Sox on their way to replicating their awesome offensive performance May 28 this season, when they walloped the Yankees at the Stadium by an identical 17-1 count in the most lopsided win in 1,928 meetings between the clubs.
Last night, the Sox pounded out 15 hits, 10 for extra bases (eight doubles, two home runs), and enjoyed nine walks. Thirteen of those hits, and nine of those walks, came in the first six innings, after which the outfield scoreboard read:
New York 000100
''That's a pitcher's dream," said David Wells, who, of course, was referring to himself, not Yankees starter Tim Redding.
Back in spring training, this was supposed to be the Yankees' division to lose because of the club's pitching, and yet, as of last night, New York had a three-man rotation of Mike Mussina, Redding, and Randy Johnson, with no announced starter for either tomorrow's game against the Sox or Monday's at Texas.
Manager Joe Torre was asked before the game if would be learning about Redding as the night progressed.
''I'm pretty much going to have to," Torre said. ''I haven't seen him pitch."
He didn't see all that much last night. Redding, 0-5 with a 9.10 ERA with San Diego this season, worked one inning plus three batters and threw 41 pitches, only 16 for strikes. A Rochester, N.Y., native, Redding said Wednesday he ''could die a happy man putting the Yankee uniform on for the first time."
And, by the second inning last night, he probably felt uncertain about whether he'd be putting the uniform on again. The Sox pounded him for six earned runs on four hits and four walks.
Johnny Damon lined Redding's first offering of the night into right field for a single, extending his hitting streak to 27 games, tied for fifth-longest in club history. Edgar Renteria then walked, but Redding whiffed David Ortiz swinging, and Ramirez looking.
But Nixon (2 for 5, 5 RBIs) doubled in two runs, Kevin Millar walked, and Jason Varitek followed with an RBI double, staking the Sox to a 3-0 first-inning lead.
Boston sent eight men to the plate in the five-run second. Bellhorn and Damon led with walks -- Damon reached four times in four innings -- and Renteria singled, loading the bases.
At that point, Torre lifted Redding for Darrell May, but it got no better. An Ortiz fielder's choice plated the fourth run, and Ramirez roped a double off the Wall for a 5-0 lead.
The pitch before Ramirez laced his double, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada had stood, signaling Cabrera to shade Ramirez to right-center. Cabrera never saw Posada, perhaps because he was playing so deep, nearly on the warning track.
That may have cost him when the next batter, Nixon, hit a slicing liner to medium-center field. Cabrera stumbled at the last minute and the ball grazed off his glove for what Wells called ''Trot's unfortunate three-run homer."
The Sox expanded the lead to 9-0 after the third inning, 12-1 after the fourth, and 17-1 after the sixth, when Ortiz launched Buddy Groom's second pitch of the evening for a grand slam. With that, Ortiz knocked in his fifth run of the night, the most he's knocked in (he also drove in five at Coors Field in June 2004).
''It's a pleasure to be able to play with him," Nixon said. ''To be able to watch him grow as a hitter."
The slam was the Sox' ninth of the season, equaling a team record set in 1941 and matched in 1950, 1987, and 2001.
Wells, who learned pregame that he'd been suspended six games for his behavior toward umpires July 2 vs. Toronto, and was forced to file some quick appeal paperwork, pitched seven economical innings. He allowed a single run on five hits. He struck out five, including Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano to begin the game.
Since his subpar performance at Yankee Stadium opening night (4 1/3 IP, 10 H, 4 ER), Wells has faced the Yankees twice with a satisfying combined line: 2-0, 15 1/3 IP, 11 H, 3 ER.
Spurned by the Yankees -- a team that could now use him -- in the offseason, Wells was asked if he's still motivated by their disinterest in his services.
''No," he said. ''They had a reason. I'm not going to hold a grudge about it. I love pitching against them because they're such a good team."
But last night, he was the one garnering the superlatives. He's now lost only one of his last 10 starts. Is he finally becoming what the Sox expected?
''I think we knew what we were going to get," Francona said. ''So long as we can run him out there with health, we know we have a very good professional pitcher."