Plenty of sock
Ortiz homers again as Red Sox escape some deep trouble
CHICAGO -- Morning having broken long before David Ortiz was prepared for it, the Red Sox slugger showed up for work yesterday and told his boss that he dreamed he'd overslept and that Terry Francona was mad at him. The kind of dream, he said, that had him sleeping with one eye shut and one eye checking the alarm clock.
``I swear to God, bro, I was dreaming like I was going to be late," Ortiz said. ``So I kept waking up and pretty much every hour was like a time bomb, you know."
These days, that is as close to a complaint as you're going to hear from Ortiz, who fought off fatigue long enough to hit his 31st home run, and eighth in his last eight games, in the Red Sox' 9-6 win over the White Sox, their second straight win over the defending World Series champions before another sellout crowd of 39,497 at U.S. Cellular Field.
``We have pretty much the worst schedule ever in baseball," said Ortiz, worn down by a three-city trip that included middle-of-the-night arrivals in Miami and Chicago, and a 12:26 local start yesterday after a night game. ``[Friday], I was very sleepy, and today it seems like we were gone from here for just an hour."
If anyone should have wished he could have stayed in bed, it was Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, who gave up three more home runs and, like Ortiz, leads the majors in long balls (26 allowed, an incomprehensible 22 in 64 innings on the road). But the Red Sox played alert, inspired baseball. No one more so than the bullpen employees who rescued Beckett when he loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, the iron in the White Sox lineup due, and the Red Sox holding an 8-5 lead.
Left hander Javier Lopez, who was buried in the minors with the White Sox before Theo Epstein liberated him in a June 15 trade for David Riske, struck out Jim Thome, who earlier had hit his 30th home run, one of three tape-measure shots off Beckett, the other two coming off the bat of Jermaine Dye. (Dye's first landed between the hedges, and if you think that means Athens, Ga., you wouldn't be off by much. It traveled an estimated 456 feet.)
Francona then went to rookie Craig Hansen, who retired cleanup man Paul Konerko on a fly ball that right fielder Trot Nixon grabbed in foul territory and held onto despite an unintended hip check from second baseman Mark Loretta, and ended the threat by inducing Dye to line to Alex Cora at short.
Beckett, who'd been cheerleading from the dugout since his removal, leaped from his perch on the steps and enthusiastically slammed Hansen with a high-five. Tears of gratitude would not have been surprising, except Texans don't cry, even when they know their 11th win would not have been possible without some help.
``Everybody in our dugout knew I was battling," said Beckett, now 11-4 despite, in half a season, giving up more home runs on the road than any Red Sox pitcher in the last 40 years. ``Battling myself, against a great hitting lineup. It was exciting for me to be a part of that."
The Sox, who had 16 hits, including two doubles and a single by gimpy-kneed Manny Ramírez (who also slid headfirst into third while tagging up), two singles, a walk, two stolen bases, an RBI, and a run by backup shortstop Alex Cora, and a key RBI single by Doug Mirabelli (one of his two RBIs), let Jonathan Papelbon get the final four outs for his 26th save, lowering his ERA to 0.41.
The loss went to Riske, who walked Cora with two outs in the sixth in a 5-5 game. Cora swiped second and scored on Kevin Youkilis's two-strike single to left.
``He's all right," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen about Papelbon. ``He's got a good arm. What he's done for the Boston Red Sox is amazing. They needed a closer the last couple of years and they found him. He's got a great future."
But for living in the present, there can be no more encouraging development for the Red Sox than Francona's discovery that he can rely on the kids, Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, along with Lopez, to serve as the bridge to Mike Timlin and Papelbon. Teams seeking relief help are advised to call 1-800-THEO and inquire about Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez.
``That's huge," said Curt Schilling, who today will attempt to give the Red Sox, winners of 17 of their last 21 games, a sweep in Chicago. ``Now, potentially, you're talking about Papelbon-like ability from the sixth inning on, if your starter has a rough start."
Knowing what they can do should make everyone in a Boston uniform rest easy, including Ortiz, though after he'd finished assembling his postgame ensemble (heavy on the thick, silver bracelets), he hardly resembled a man intending to go straight to the hotel bed.
He did, however, leave with (almost) matching gifts from A.J. Pierzynski, the world-class instigator and old friend from their Twins days. Big Papi and A.J. engaged in a mock shoving match before the game.
``I said, `A.J., don't start talking trash to me because you know you're not allowed to be fighting,' " Ortiz said. ``'You could get your butt kicked in a heartbeat. That's my man. I said, `A.J., sign me a bat for my son.' "
Ortiz, whose home run was a two-run drive to center field that broke a 3-3 tie and came off White Sox starter Freddy Garcia, against whom he'd been 3 for 17, reached into his locker and pulled out two black bats wrapped in white sanitary hose.
``This one says, `To D'Angelo,' my son. Then he signed one for me. I didn't ask him for it. I only asked him for one. Seems like he has a lot of bats."
Pierzynski personalized that one, too, with an unprintable message that had Ortiz howling. Something to sleep on -- until he gets a chance to swing his own lumber again.