MINNEAPOLIS -- Those who believe in the paranormal might call it the Nomar Effect.
Since trading deadline day in July 2004, when Nomar Garciaparra was told in the visitors' clubhouse here that he was no longer a member of the Red Sox, the Metrodome has been a chamber of some horror for the Sox. They'd lost seven of eight games to the Twins here since that Saturday afternoon when Theo Epstein bloodlessly dealt one of New England's favorite sons, and last season they were swept in three games in their only visit.
Don't buy the hocus-pocus stuff? Well, last season, David Ortiz hit a ball that was headed toward the upper deck and the poster of his idol, Kirby Puckett, until it hit a speaker at the top of the dome and became the world's loudest single. Twins center fielder Torii Hunter swears the ball was rising when it clanked off the speaker.
"You'll never see that in another 20 years," Hunter said.
Last night, in a 2-0 Sox win over the Twins, Ortiz altered his aim or the gremlins were otherwise occupied. This time, Ortiz hit one that avoided the speakers and landed safely in the upper deck -- just to the right of the late, great Puck -- the kind of blast that reminds Minnesotans of what they lost when the Twins didn't offer Ortiz a contract after the 2002 season.
"It looks like Kirby is calling to me every time I come to hit, 'I'm here,' " said Ortiz, who in his last three games against his ex-mates has six hits, including four home runs, and four RBIs, and in 21 games overall against the Twins is batting .351 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs.
For eight innings, Ortiz's eighth home run of the season, off Carlos Silva, which broke a scoreless tie in the sixth, was all that separated the Sox from the Twins, for whom home runs have been an uncommon sight in 2007. They began the night last in the American League with 16. Justin Morneau, the reigning MVP, had six. So did Hunter. Joe Mauer, last year's AL batting champion, had one. The other six batters in the Twins' lineup had zip. Nada. Zilch.
Unencumbered by fears that he was facing a Midwestern Murderers' Row, Tim Wakefield shut out the Twins on three hits through seven innings, then was picked up by the Sox' bullpen, which was given a bonus run to work with in the ninth when J.D. Drew tripled to left-center and scored on Coco Crisp's single through a drawn-in infield.
Wakefield, pitching despite a bad cold that had left him feeling dehydrated, lowered his earned run average to 2.11. That's second in the league to Oakland's Dan Haren (1.75), which is what makes Wakefield's 3-3 record so misleading. That, and the fact that the Sox have scored 12 runs for him while he has been on the mound (38 1/3 innings). That translates to 2.88 runs per nine innings, the third-lowest average in the league.
"He's been outstanding -- he could be undefeated," said reliever Brendan Donnelly, who combined with J.C. Romero to protect Wakefield's lead in the eighth. "Seems like there's one guy on every staff who doesn't get support. Bad luck, that's all."
The Sox pitcher who is undefeated, Josh Beckett, leads the league in run support with 9.53 runs per nine innings.
Former Twin Romero got the first two outs in the eighth before departing after Mauer's ground-rule double that made the left-field seats on one hop. Francona summoned Donnelly, who needed one pitch to dispose of Hunter on a foul pop to first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
With Mike Timlin on the disabled list, Romero and Donnelly are going to be called upon to pitch in more meaningful situations.
"Game's still the same," Donnelly said. "No different. Just because Timlin is down, the job remains the same. Give us the ball, get people out."
Jonathan Papelbon, pitching for the first time since blowing a save Tuesday, finished off the Twins in the ninth.
The last time Papelbon pitched, he gave up a two-run home run to Travis Buck that tied a game in the ninth that the Sox lost in the 10th. Last night, the first batter he faced, Morneau, sent Crisp to the fence in center to haul in a drive for the inning's first out. Mike Redmond flied to right for the second out, before Jason Kubel rolled out to shortstop to end it. The save was Papelbon's ninth of the season.
"The beautiful thing about baseball, you come out the next day," Papelbon had said the day after his blown save. "I don't let stuff gnaw at me. I might blow out a gasket here, but I'll go home, play with my dog, and go to bed."
The Sox had a couple of chances early against Silva. Doug Mirabelli led off the third with a double and was bunted to third by Alex Cora, but was erased attempting to score on Julio Lugo's one-hopper to shortstop Jason Barrett, catcher Mike Redmond pirouetting to make the tag on the slo-mo-in-actual-time Mirabelli. Cora, who had three hits to raise his average to a Williamsesque .406, tripled with two outs in the fifth but this time Lugo lined to right. Manny Ramírez followed Ortiz's homer with a double to the fence in center, but Drew rolled out and Mike Lowell lined to the track in left.
But Wakefield also was tough with men on base. The Twins had two on in the first after Wakefield hit Mauer with a pitch and Hunter had an infield hit, but Morneau flied to left. A walk and Barrett's double gave the Twins runners on second and third in the second, but Luis Castillo lined out. Hunter singled and stole second with two outs in the third, but Morneau was rung up when he failed to hold up on his two-strike swing. Hunter walked with one out in the sixth and attempted to steal again, but was thrown out by Mirabelli.
Cora, cheating toward the middle, took a base hit away from Castillo leading off the eighth against Romero.
"Wake was great -- obviously, the knuckleball today was dancing," Cora said, "almost impossible to hit, and he also mixed in a fastball, got some outs with it. We played some good defense, and got enough offense to win the game. J.C. did a great job, Brendan, just a W."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.