For those looking for a harbinger of better things to come for the Red Sox in the season's second half, last night's 7-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays abounded with candidates, but none more encouraging than this:
For the first time in Fenway Park in 2007, and only the third time this season, David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez drove in multiple runs in the same game. Ortiz singled home a run in the first and doubled home another in the sixth, and Ramírez doubled home a run in the first, hit a sacrifice fly in the second, and singled home a run in the sixth. Ramírez entered the game in an 8-for-46 slump, while Ortiz was coming off a weekend in which he admitted his right knee was sore and may require a surgical procedure after the season.
After last night's victory, Ortiz elaborated on the condition of his knee, saying last year he had undergone an MRI that showed a small tear of the meniscus cartilage. He said last weekend in Detroit, and reiterated last night, that he sustained the injury in June of last season, when he got tangled up in the netting of the batting cage at Yankee Stadium. Ortiz said he did not have surgery last season because he did not have inflammation. "It wasn't bad, you know, it wasn't getting inflammation," Ortiz said.
"I have the same thing now, but it gets aggravated a little more. We may want to repair it at one point. It affects your hitting because I sit on my leg to hit and some days when I come in and it's sore I can't bend like I normally do. It makes me stand up more straight and makes me go forward too much."
Depending on the severity of the tear, it doesn't always require surgery. Former Sox outfielder Trot Nixon played all of 2005 with a meniscus tear before having surgery after the season; Jason Varitek missed over a month after having surgery last August to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
There was a report, although unconfirmed, that Ramírez had a small meniscus tear last season; Ramírez missed much of the last six weeks of the season with what was called patellar tendinitis.
"Even if an MRI showed a tear, unless it clearly and significantly keeps a player from performing, there's no reason to do anything with it," orthopedic surgeon Jeffery Dugas said at the time Ramírez was hurt. "If he can play his position, hit, run on it, he can continue to play. An MRI is such a sensitive test, sometimes you can overread it."
So why did Ortiz, whose three hits last night raised his average to .319, keep quiet about it until recently?
"I just don't want people to go crazy about it or anything, you know what I mean? The doctors know what I have."
The Sox got an additional scare when Ortiz fouled a ball off his right knee in the eighth inning, but he remained in the game. Had he given any thought to coming out? "I'd have to have a broken leg, dude," he said.
Beyond Ortiz and Ramírez, there was more evidence of a bullish start to the second half, one that kept the Sox 10 games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East and widened their lead to 11 over the Blue Jays:
The Sox once again roughed up Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, who gave up a four-spot in the first inning, throwing 36 pitches before he got his first swing and miss. Halladay was gone after five innings, having thrown a staggering 112 pitches. The last time the Sox faced Halladay, he gave up 11 hits and seven runs in five innings and underwent an emergency appendectomy the next day. The former Cy Young Award winner has allowed five or more earned runs six times this season, including his last two outings.
"We did a good job making Halladay work," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
J.D. Drew, who was supposed to be the answer in the No. 5 hole, continues to thrive in the leadoff spot. Drew singled and scored in the first inning, walked and scored in the second, and has scored a dozen runs in 10 starts as leadoff man.
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield reached double digits in wins, holding the Blue Jays to a couple of runs on six singles until Matt Stairs and Alex Rios hit consecutive home runs in the sixth inning.
Kevin Youkilis, who had missed the previous five games and six of the last eight with tightness in his right quadriceps, walked twice and hit a ground ball to the right side to make sure the Sox added a fourth run off Halladay in the first.
Dustin Pedroia, served Halladay early notice he would have to work for everything. He fouled off five pitches in his first at-bat before drawing a full-count walk. Pedroia singled and scored in the sixth, and made a terrific backhanded stop for the third out of the Blue Jays first, with one run in and the Jays threatening to add more.
The bullpen, with Wakefield departing after the sixth, held the Blue Jays scoreless. Manny Delcarmen, looking like a key component of the pen, struck out Gregg Zaun with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball on the black, then retired the next two hitters on ground balls in an impressive seventh. Hideki Okajima escaped a first-and-third, two-out jam in the eighth, extending his scoreless streak to 14 appearances. Closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up a double to Zaun in the ninth but got his 21st save.
And shortstop Julio Lugo, with two hits, raised his average to .201, the first time he has been above the Mendoza Line since June 20. Lugo, who went 3 for 3 in Detroit, was generously awarded a single on his slow roller in the first, then lined a single in the third for a fifth straight hit before lining to left and reaching on an error in his last two at-bats.
Until this season, the Sox had never led by as many as 10 games at the All-Star break. But Papelbon, who wasn't born in '78, when the Sox blew a 14 1/2 game lead to the Yankees, warned that the Sox could not afford to become complacent.
"Very important, considering we got swept in Detroit," Wakefield said. "A welcome three days off for a lot of us, and great to be pitching in front of the home crowd and the idea was to have a victory, a good crisp game, and hopefully carry the momentum into the rest of the series."