boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
Bob Ryan

Monster blast spoke volumes

Yup. I'm going to say it.

That was Manny being Manny, all right.

That was Manny with his first career postseason walkoff homer and, believe it or not, his first walkoff, period, in 11 years. And that, too, was off an Angels pitcher (Troy Percival).

That was Manny Ramírez, arms aloft, as he had the exquisite pleasure of watching his game-winning three-run homer off Francisco Rodriguez soar off into the night, or, I should say, early morning.

That was Manny Ramírez, following an intentional walk to David Ortiz for the second time in the game, putting the Red Sox up, 2-0, in this series, with his first home run since he returned to the lineup after a problem with his oblique muscle.

Oh, that was Manny being Manny, all right. The crowd of 37,706 knew from the millisecond the ball left the bat that this game was over, that the Red Sox were 6-3 winners. Manny c-r-u-s-h-e-d that K-Rod 1-and-0 pitch. It was, hello, Lansdowne Street. This one may have had negative hang time.

"At that point, I just wanted to see the ball and trust myself," said Manny, issuing his first public pronouncements of the 2007 season. "You know, I got a lot of confidendce in myself. He's one of the greatest closers in the game and I'm one of the best hitters in the game. You know, he missed his spot, and [I] got good timing on the ball, and that's it."

The crowd had to sit through a lot in order to see Manny be Manny. It took 4 hours 5 minutes to play itself out, but it was worth the wait. They had to squirm through one of those tedious Daisuke Matsuzaka starts, for openers. You might say that was Dice-K being Dice-K, what with the nibbling and the 3-and-2 counts and the 31 pitches in the first and the 28 in the second.

It was almost as if Terry Francona had decided he just couldn't watch it any longer, as he pulled Dice-K with two outs in the fifth and men on first and second. Dice-K had thrown 96 pitches, and that was after being reasonably economic with his pitch count in the third and fourth.

"A lot of pitches," Francona pointed out. "A lot of deep counts, and I thought even when he started ahead, he found a way to get back into hitter's counts."

Dice-K had left the game trailing, 3-2. The Red Sox tied it in the fifth on a Dustin Pedroia double down the left-field line, an intentional walk to David Ortiz, a quite unintentional walk to Manny, and a Mike Lowell sacrifice fly. And then the Red Sox' bats went into cold storage.

From the sixth through the eighth, it was a battle of two renowned bullpens. The Red Sox got a needed out in the fifth from Javier Lopez, a strong four outs from Manny Delcarmen, four strong outs from Hideki Okajima, and, yup, four outs from Jonathan Papelbon, who was brought on with two away and no one on in the eighth and would have had a one-pitch, rocking-chair inning had the normally reliable Lowell not bounced a throw on a Howie Kendrick grounder.

This made for a lot more work for Papelbon, who may have gotten an early Christmas present when home plate umpire Dan Iassogna rang up Chone Figgins on a 3-and-2 pitch with runners perched on second and third. At least that appeared to be Figgins's opinion, judging from the face he made when Iassogna made his call.

The Angels countered with nice relief performances from Scot Shields and Justin Speier, although the latter did become the losing pitcher after allowing Julio Lugo to hit the first pitch of the ninth for a single to left.

K-Rod had entered the game to face Kevin Youkilis with Lugo on second following a Pedroia ground out (Lugo was running on the pitch). That brought up Big Papi, and this is where Angels skipper Mike Scioscia had to choose between two very unpleasant alternatives. You pitch to the man who has led everyone in baseball in homers and runs batted in for the past four years, and has earned a reputation as baseball's greatest big-moment hitter, or you pitch to a man whose ticket to Cooperstown was punched a long time ago.

Scioscia had been in a similar situation in the fifth. Pedroia was on third with one away and Scioscia didn't mess around. He put Papi on. It is obvious that Scioscia has decided there is no way he will allow David Ortiz to beat him.

So Manny wasn't surprised when it happened again in the ninth. "Just a game [Scioscia] is playing," Ramírez shrugged.

Francona certainly had sympathy for his managerial counterpart. "It's hard to let David beat you," he agreed. "But Manny's such a good hitter behind him, he made him pay."

Could things be shaping up any better for the Red Sox? All year long, people have waited for the Papi & Manny Show to kick in. It took Papi a while to start putting up his usual numbers, and as for Manny . . . Uh-uh. He never seemed to be Manny-ing in his usual way. Of course, he never talked about what might be wrong.

Until last night.

"Just my timing all year hasn't been right," he explained. "But, man, like I said, even when I'm not right, I get hits. So, you know, I just go to battle, and keep preparing the way I'm preparing. Because I never go down. That's me, man."

Papi is in a classic groove and the Angels want absolutely no part of it. He has reached base safely in eight of nine plate appearances, mainly because they won't pitch to him. He had a single, homer, and walk Wednesday. He had a sharp opposite-field single in the first last night, after which he was walked four consecutive times, twice intentionally.

Now if Manny is going to start Manny-ing, look out. You think all of baseball wasn't paying attention last night? That was a big-time hit by a big-time hitter. That's your ultimate managerial nightmare, right there. Do you really want to keep walking David Ortiz in order to get to Manny Ramírez?

And Manny, it was so nice to hear from you. Aw gee, Manny, we've missed your insights. You could have brightened up many a dreary summer night if you had been as forthcoming with us as you were last night.

Like, who else would say this?

"I guess, you know, when you don't feel good and you still get hits, that's when you know you are a bad man."

There you have Manny being Manny, as only he can.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

More from Boston.com

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES