A revival beating for Sox
Ortiz and Ramirez belt two homers each as bats come to life in rout of Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When David Ortiz's second parabolic blast of the night and 46th of the season, a 451-footer, crashed in the children's jungle gym well beyond the wall in right center, it was the cerebral father of three who wears a helmet at all times who produced the most memorable line.
''Actually," said Terry Francona, clearly surprised at what he was about to say, ''[John] Olerud had one of the better lines. He said, 'Maybe they ought to put out a public address announcement to tell those children out there to be careful.' "
When Olerud, the serious student who has found his way into the Delta (club) House, quips memorable, you know it's a light night at the park. And did the Sox ever need this: a 15-2 exhalation against the Devil Rays after unsettling losses to Oakland and Tampa Bay that allowed the Yankees within a half-game of the AL East lead.
The lead remains just that, with the Yankees winning, 12-9, at home against Baltimore. The Sox, meanwhile, avoided their first three-game losing streak since July 16-18.
''I don't think we had any anxiety," said catcher Jason Varitek, one of four Sox players with four hits, tying an American League record. ''We didn't pitch well those two games, we didn't pitch well at all."
Last night, Curt Schilling did pitch well (7 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 7 K's, 1 BB), finding genuine rhythm and location with his fastball. But he didn't find that until the bottom of the fourth inning, by which time he enjoyed a 10-2 lead. So which came first? The stuff, or a lead significant enough for him to reach back, mind clear, able to make mistakes without repercussions?
''I don't know if it's coincidence or not, because he said about the fourth inning all of a sudden it's like it clicked with his fastball, command," Francona said. ''I betcha having the run support had something to do with that, because he had some room for error."
Schilling wasn't heard from after the game, only seen, walking out a back door to the clubhouse before it opened to the media. His teammates, curiously, were small in number when the room did open. Of the four hitters who became a part of history last night, only Varitek made himself available.
At the conclusion of five innings, the Nos. 3-6 hitters -- Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon, and Varitek -- were 15 for 16 with five home runs and a triple. Nixon singled in the seventh, for his fourth hit, marking just the sixth time in AL history that four teammates recorded four hits in the same game.
Ortiz homered twice (Nos. 45 and 46) and singled twice. Ramirez homered twice (Nos. 37 and 38) and singled twice as well. Nixon, after whiffing in the first, homered, singled, and tripled through five innings, leaving him a double shy of the cycle with half the game to go. He'd later single and fly to left. Varitek had singled four times, giving him as many hits in five innings as he had in his preceding 13 games.
How odd, it seemed, by the end of the fifth, by which time the Sox led, 13-2, that just hours earlier the media had assembled in Francona's office to discuss, among other matters, shuffling the lineup.
''I believe in these guys, and I believe if you stay the course you get paid dividends," Francona said in the 4 o'clock hour. ''I believe it's better."
The question was put to the manager largely because of the brutal slumps endured by Varitek and Nixon. Varitek was 4 for his last 43 (.093) and 6 for 51 (.118) in September. Nixon, meanwhile, was hitting just .213 (16 for 74) since coming off the disabled list Aug. 23.
''It's nice to contribute," Varitek said. ''Sometimes you all of a sudden feel better. Sometimes you don't know you're tired."
Ortiz, the DH, shows no signs of fatigue, wear, or slowing down. With Johnny Damon aboard in the first, Ortiz launched a two-run, first-pitch shot to right field. Ramirez followed with a solo shot crushed 433 feet to center field. Though they'd combined for 82 home runs to that point, it was the first time all season that the 3-4 hitters went back to back. Last year, they tied a major league record by going back to back six times.
It was Ortiz's ninth multihomer game of the season, one shy of Jimmie Foxx's club record set in 1938. His second, the two-run blast in the third, was his third homer in as many at-bats, 10th September home run, and 10th homer this season vs. Tampa Bay, the most any opponent has ever hit off the Rays in one season. It was also his seventh homer in his last five road games, giving him a team-record 27 road home runs this year (Ted Williams had held the team record since 1957, with 26).
Nixon launched a two-run blast later in the inning, and Ramirez added his two-run homer in the fifth, his third multihomer game of the year and 42d of his career.
Every Sox starter had a hit except for the fatigued Edgar Renteria (0 for 4 with a walk), who began the night with the second-lowest on-base percentage (.197) in the majors for anyone with 50 plate appearances this month.
The large lead allowed Francona to begin resting his regulars, beginning in the sixth. Any rest is welcome, as the Sox played for the 29th consecutive day, an unforgiving stretch that has taken a very visible toll on players, both physically and mentally.
By the seventh, Roberto Petagine was in left, Adam Hyzdu was in center, Alejandro Machado was at second -- heck, even Hanley Ramirez was at shortstop, making his major league debut (he's still yet to play at Triple A).
Thus, Schilling became an afterthought. He allowed single runs in the first and third innings. He allowed a smoked homer to Jorge Cantu in the first, Cantu's 27th homer and 108th RBI (establishing a team record). Cantu then added a sac fly in the third, worth noting because the runner who scored, Carl Crawford, was on second base.
Damon caught the ball up against the wall, and Crawford was thinking two bases immediately. He wound up scoring standing up, as Damon relayed to Renteria to Varitek, but too slowly.