Sox catch break, then take hold
Given new life, Ramirez drops HR on White Sox
CHICAGO -- Up in the air, along with the baseball, hung a 50-game errorless streak for Joe Crede. There was one out in the ninth inning of a tie game as Crede, the White Sox' accountable third baseman, drifted toward the stands, stalking the night for a Manny Ramirez pop fly and a personal milestone. He drifted to the wall, backpedaled toward the field, reached up, and fumbled.
Any doubt about what happened next?
It didn't take long, the next pitch, in fact, for the man with 415 career home runs to hit another, this one -- conveniently -- 415 feet into the Chicago night.
Thus, Boston 6, Chicago 5, in a win that felt as important as any this season because of who it came against (the team with baseball's best record), when it came (to begin a seven-game road trip), and what the Red Sox had to overcome (a 4-1 deficit to All-Star Game starter Mark Buehrle).
''Huge, huge," said Matt Clement, spared a loss despite allowing four runs on three home runs in six innings. ''You want to start off a road trip like this, especially against the best team in baseball.
''You start off negatively, who knows what it can snowball into. We hope now we can take the snowball and run with it."
There was much to embrace and run with last night.
The Sox bounced Buehrle after six innings plus four batters in the seventh (single, walk, error, intentional walk), marking the first time in 26 starts since last season Buehrle had not completed seven innings, a feat Clement labeled ''awesome."
The Sox rescued Clement, who left the park feeling good about himself despite having allowed 22 earned runs and seven home runs in 23 innings this month.
Curt Schilling pitched the eighth and ninth innings in his first multiple-inning relief appearance of the season (he'd pitched one inning in each of his four previous appearances). He allowed one run, in the eighth, on an RBI double by Crede, who stood to be the hero before becoming the goat. But, Schilling returned for the ninth, and, facing the top of the order, popped up the AL's most creative leadoff hitter, Scott Podsednik, then fanned Tadahito Iguchi and Carl Everett to earn his second win of the season.
''I don't know if I blew them away," said Schilling, who answered in measured tones, careful not to overplay one night's success. ''I can't do what you guys do. I can't look at it every night as an NFL game and break it down."
Postgame, though, that was a fun task last night.
Consider how this began. The early stages were played under a pastel-like sky of purples and pinks, which provided a picturesque backdrop for the balls flying out of the yard off Clement. He surrendered a 397-foot two-run shot to center to Everett in the first inning, a 403-foot blast to left-center to Paul Konerko on a high fastball to lead off the fourth, and a 405-foot solo blast on a hanging breaking pitch to Aaron Rowand one batter later.
The Everett homer -- which included two of his trademark skyward points during his home run gallop -- staked the White Sox to a 2-0 lead, the Konerko and Rowand blasts upping it to 4-1.
Bill Mueller knocked in the first Sox run, plating Kevin Millar on a one-hop double to the left-field wall in the second inning. The Sox closed the gap to 4-3 in the fifth, when Johnny Damon led off with a double, Edgar Renteria doubled, scoring Damon, and David Ortiz placed a one-armed single over Crede's extended glove at third, scoring Renteria.
The cerebral Colombian, who sunk to .239 before a prolific late-May road trip to Toronto and New York, scored twice and was 3 for 4 with a walk, singling in the first and third innings and doubling in the fifth. Renteria lifted his post-May 24 average to .312.
Through six innings, the Sox trailed, 4-3, but had outhit the White Sox, 9-6, against Buehrle. Yet Buehrle continued his remarkable run, which began well before this mystical season. Buehrle lasted six innings last night for the 48th consecutive start.
But Buehrle couldn't record an out in the seventh, when Damon singled, Renteria walked, and Ortiz hit a bullet at Iguchi at second that caromed into center for an error. Damon came around to score, powering his way to the plate as A.J. Pierzynski attempted to haul in Iguchi's throw. That tied it, and Kevin Millar vaulted the Sox ahead with a sacrifice fly three batters later for a 5-4 lead.
Chicago tied it in the eighth, though, when Crede lined a Schilling fastball to the wall in right-center, scoring Rowand, who'd doubled. Then came Ramirez's blast, and back came Schilling.
''I like the idea of Schilling not turning into just a one-inning pitcher," Sox manager Terry Francona said.