Total effort was in order
Top to bottom, lineup delivered
David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez are the meat of the Red Sox order, but as every great chef and backyard barbecue aficionado knows, it takes more than the main dish to pull off the complete meal.
Last night, in Boston's 10-3 thumping of the Indians in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, of equal importance was what Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell cooked up around the game's top 3-4 hitters.
"One through nine is important," said Lowell, reflecting on the top-to-bottom makeup of the order. "We don't want the guys hitting behind or in front of that David-Manny combination not being able to do their job."
Youkilis, hitting in the No. 2 hole, went 2 for 4 and scored three times, including his first-inning run that erased a 1-0 lead the Indians built on Travis Hafner's homer. The understated Lowell, slotted behind Ramírez at No. 5, went 1 for 3 and drove in three runs, matching Ramírez knock for knock in the RBI column.
Ortiz and Ramírez reached base in all 10 plate appearances, which in part was why Lowell, in his five trips to the plate, saw a collective 12 runners occupying bases as he made his way from the on-deck circle. If the Sox didn't have two on when he was up, they had three, and Lowell picked up his RBIs with a two-run double in the third and a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
"They're seeing the ball well and really swinging the bats," said Youkilis, praising the work of Ortiz and Ramírez. "But you have to tip your hats, too, to the guys who are hitting behind them - Mike Lowell and Bobby Kielty. With guys on base, they can do some damage."
Youkilis, who struggled the second half of the regular season, hampered by injury, culled the first hit off Indians starter C.C. Sabathia, a one-out ground single past the shortstop. Two hitters later, Youkilis logged the first Sox run when Ramírez lined a sharp single to center.
"It's always huge for us to even the score like that," said Youkilis. "You know, get that run back and then get ahead, and from there take full advantage of getting on base and scoring some runs."
Lowell's night didn't begin with the same bang. In fact, it was a thud. With runners at first and third, the reliable third baseman smacked a grounder to second base, where Asdrubal Cabrera partnered with shortstop Jhonny Peralta for a 4-6-3 double play. Threat over, the Sox were left feeling somewhat shortchanged.
But the Sox blew it open with a four-run third inning, Sabathia plucked apart most by his lack of control, cutting too close to the corners against Boston's big hitters. Julio Lugo opened the frame with a ground-rule double, then moved up on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice bunt. Youkilis followed with a walk. Ortiz was hit by a pitch. Ramírez also picked up a free pass, bringing in Lugo with the go-ahead run, 2-1.
Then it was a case of Lowell being Lowell, shooting a double to right that tacked on two more runs (Youkilis and Ortiz). Too fine with his pitches to Ortiz and Ramírez, Boston's powerbrokers, Sabathia ultimately fell prey to the keen-eyed Lowell, who knocked home a gaudy 120 runs during the regular season.
"Lugo, Dustin, and Youk . . . if they're on base, there's nowhere to put those guys [Ortiz and Ramírez]," said Lowell. "So they've got to pitch to them, and that's to our advantage. If they come through, it's the responsibility of the guys that follow - myself, Coco [Crisp], and Tek [Jason Varitek].
"It's up to us to keep it going so they don't get a free pass."
Youkilis came across in the sixth with his third run of the night, not long after he singled to right. Who drove him home? None other than Lowell, who followed back-to-back walks to Ortiz and Ramírez with a sacrifice fly to center. Youkilis had no trouble skipping home with the 10th run.
"A great win for us," said Youkilis. "We went out and swung the bats well, and tried to make C.C. work. And when you give that many runs to Josh [Beckett], or any of our pitchers, that's a real positive. I think everyone had a hit tonight, and that really helped out offensively."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.