|He had the winning homer in Game 2, but Manny Ramírez was right back at it at yesterday's optional workout, awaiting his time in the cage. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)|
Blast from the past
Sox flying high long after Ramírez HR
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Manny Ramírez has spent nine of his 13 full seasons in the big leagues playing games that mattered in October. He has had a 17-game hitting streak in the postseason, tying a couple of Yankees, Derek Jeter and Hank Bauer, for the longest such streak in history. He has 21 postseason homers, runner-up by one to another Yankee, Bernie Williams.
But in seven seasons with the Red Sox and 3,713 at-bats in a Boston uniform, 125 in the postseason, Ramírez never had experienced the euphoria of hitting a walkoff home run like David Ortiz.
Curt Schilling, who has a chance to close out the Angels in Game 3 this afternoon, said he and Josh Beckett, who had flown out ahead of the team, had just arrived at the team's hotel in southern California when Ramírez connected.
"We literally stepped out of the car in front of the hotel and looked into the hotel bar and on my phone it said, 'Manny put the ball in play,' and I looked at the TV and Manny had his hands up," Schilling said. "We walked in the bar where there were a bunch of Angels' fans sitting, and I was acting like a 2-year-old. I was just screaming. I don't think they were all that excited."
Judging by the way Ramírez tossed his helmet before diving into the mosh pit awaiting him at home plate after his ninth-inning blast secured victory in Game 2, he had some idea of what to do when it happened.
"He actually told me in the ninth before everything happened, 'I'm going to end this,' " said third baseman Mike Lowell. "I said to him, 'Listen, if there's a guy on second they're going to walk Ortiz. "He said, 'Tranquilo' [no problem]. Unbelievable."
With his game-winning three-run home run in the 6-3 win over the Angels, a ball that created its own parking space on Lansdowne Street, Ramírez turned a long night into a glorious sunrise for the Red Sox, who were greeted by dawn here yesterday after flying all night, a flight Jonathan Papelbon had plotted turning into a personally enriching experience.
"Hopefully, I'll take all of David Ortiz's money, and if Manny wants to jump in, I'll take his paycheck, too," said Papelbon, who already had cashed in on Ramírez's homer, recording his first win in the postseason, having missed out on the tournament last season and being part of a Sox team swept in three straight by the White Sox in their 2005 Division Series.
The Angels, meanwhile, are two decades and counting of watching the Sox celebrate at their expense, usually after a late-inning home run. The Angels have lost eight postseason exercises in a row to the Red Sox, a streak that began with home runs by Don Baylor and Dave Henderson in Game 5 of the '86 ALCS, resumed with Ortiz's walkoff home run off Jarrod Washburn in Game 3 of a sweep in the '04 Division Series, and has them a game from elimination after Beckett's shutout in Game 1 and Ramírez's walkoff surrendered by K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez.
The Angels had the majors' best home record (54-27) this season, but awaiting their bleary red eyes (and Garret Anderson's pink eye) is a well-rested Schilling, who because he flew ahead of the club was unaware of the new handle he's been given by Papelbon.
"We got the Big Daddy, Curt Schilling, going for us tomorrow," Papelbon said. "I think anybody on this team would love to have him going for us to seal the deal, and I know he'll be ready to go."
Ready? If Schilling pitches as well as the command performance he gave in his news conference yesterday, he will make Beckett's dazzling outing in Game 1 seem a warm-up act to the main event.
"I've answered every question from a preparation standpoint," Schilling said during the team's optional workout, attended by nearly all of the position players, the most notable exceptions Ortiz and Coco Crisp. "I'm as ready to go as I've ever been for a game. I'm as prepared as I've ever been for a game. I'm pitching against a team that's been fighting for their life. That's going to be a challenge. There will probably be some things that will happen [today] that people will not forget, and you want it to be in a good way when it comes to you."
Behind Schilling is a bullpen that was close to perfect Friday night, holding the Angels hitless over the last 4 1/3 innings. Javy Lopez picked up a faltering Daisuke Matsuzaka by getting the last out in the fifth. Manny Delcarmen, growing up overnight from bedazzled hometown kid into a give-me-the-ball dealer, recorded four outs. So did Hideki Okajima. And Papelbon survived an eighth-inning scare spawned by Lowell's throwing error, just his second in his last 67 games, to finish off the Angels.
The Angels, while worried about the health of their only slugger, Vladimir Guerrero, who came out of the Game 2 loss in the eighth inning after being struck behind the left shoulder by a Delcarmen pitch the inning before, have yet to find a way to counter the double jeopardy posed by Ortiz and Ramírez. Ortiz has been on base eight times in nine plate appearances through two games. The Angels walked him four times Friday night, twice intentionally. Ramírez, meanwhile, now has hit safely in 21 of his last 22 postseason games and Friday night received an assist from a 17-year-old sitting a couple of rows from the field, the kid snatching a foul ball out of the glove of Angels catcher Mike Napoli. Ramírez wound up drawing a walk in the inning, the fifth, when the Sox eventually scored the tying run on Lowell's sacrifice fly.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Guerrero underwent X-rays and showed a bruise.
"Knowing Vladi he'll come in tomorrow and be ready to go," Scioscia said.
Schilling and the Sox would like nothing better than to give Guerrero from now until spring training to recover.
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.