Sox pound out 23 hits, finish Fenway sweep
Hale on sweep
Red Sox third base coach DeMarlo Hale talks about Boston's impressive outing in an 18-5 triumph over the Twins Wednesday that capped a three-game sweep.
Over the press box public address system came the words, "That's a triple play. For now." But not for long. With Jason Varitek waving his arms wildly at first base to indicate that center fielder Denard Span had trapped the ball he hit in the seventh inning yesterday, the umpires got together to come to a decision. The ruling? Single, RBI.
"I just thought it looked like it bounced into his glove," Varitek said afterward, adding that it couldn't have been a triple play with Mike Lowell tagging at third base. "I didn't want to come off the base."
So the eventual ruling, if not quite as exciting, was the correct call. It gave Varitek just his second multihit game since May 31 (breaking an 0-for-11 drought), and fit perfectly with all the other wild, weird, and sun-drenched happenings in yesterday's Fenway Park matinee. No fewer than three balls became hits when outfielders - Span, Jason Kubel, and Brandon Moss - lost them in the sun, part of an 18-5 win for the Red Sox as they completed a three-game sweep of the Twins.
Plus, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire took the opportunity to get ejected for arguing the triple play that wasn't.
"If I can see it - because I've got the worst eyes out there - from where I'm sitting, they probably would have had to carry me off in a stretcher [had the umpires gotten it wrong]," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "That was a big, big play."
Sure, Josh Beckett pitched, going five innings and allowing eight hits, five runs, and two walks with two strikeouts. But the excitement? That came from a seesaw score that spiraled out of control in the seventh, the Sox tallying seven runs for their most productive inning of the season. So, as the Red Sox' chief rivals, Tampa Bay and New York, went to extra innings in a game won by the Yankees, 2-1, in 10, the Sox swept a series from a surging opponent in front of 37,470 overheated fans, the finale a laugher after Boston had played four straight one-run games.
"It just kind of exploded and snowballed from the seventh inning on," Varitek said, the 18 runs the most by the Sox since June 27, 2003, when they scored 25 against Florida.
Besides the almost triple play, there was a fan interference call on a Monster ball, a 6-4-5 double play, a rare error by Kevin Youkilis, an 11-batter inning, a pinch-hit home run over the Sports Authority sign by backup catcher Kevin Cash, and a need for new sunglasses all over the outfield.
By the time Cash stepped in to face Brian Bass to lead off the eighth inning, recording the first pinch hit of his career and just his second home run of the season, it was over. Except for a few more oddities, and a few more opportunities for the Sox to pad their stats.
Though the Twins took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, including Justin Morneau's two-run homer off Beckett, then kept it close with two more in the sixth on a home run off the light tower in center by Kubel and an RBI single by Nick Punto, the Sox ended any doubt with their seventh-inning explosion. Six hits and two walks added up to 11 batters heading to the plate, seven of them scoring, and the game out of reach.
It went like this: Lowell walk, Sean Casey ground-rule double, Varitek RBI single (after much confusion), Moss strikeout swinging, Julio Lugo walk, Jacoby Ellsbury RBI single, Dustin Pedroia bases-loaded, bases-clearing double, Youkilis RBI double, Manny Ramírez RBI single, Lowell fielder's choice, and, finally, Casey ground out.
The Sox finished with 23 hits, their most since they banged out 27 May 28, 2005, against the Yankees in New York. And more than enough to whip the Twins.
That's not to say that it wasn't close, at least at one point. With the Sox leading, 7-5, in the top of the seventh, the Twins loaded the bases with one out. Morneau singled past Pedroia at second, then Kubel walked. Craig Hansen replaced Javier Lopez and allowed a single to Delmon Young, the one lost in the sun by Moss in right. But Hansen got Mike Lamb to fly to shallow left, and Punto grounded out.
"We're a pitcher away from that game going away," Francona said.
"We couldn't stop them at the end; balls were flying all over the place," Gardenhire said. "Some pretty weird plays happened out there on the field today - in the corners, off the walls, you name it. Fenway at its best today, sun balls, the whole package. We just couldn't stop it."
No, they couldn't, making for a good afternoon on which to send the Sox off for a day of rest. After a road trip through Houston, Tampa Bay, and New York, plus three at home against Minnesota, the Sox were relieved to have a day to take a load off. Including Pedroia.
"I'm trying to get out of here and go to the beach, man," he said.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.