Sox’ offense quickly steals show from LA
It was 7:29 p.m., and the crowd at Fenway Park rose. The man with the dreadlocks and No. 99 jersey — Manny Ramirez fixed his batting gloves and leaned on his bat. The moment was approaching. He made his way to home plate, the ballpark roiled with sound, a nearly equal amount of cheers and boos greeting him in his return to his former home.
They were nearly all cheers, though, moments later. That was when Ramirez swung at the first pitch, lifting a ball to center field, where it was caught by Mike Cameron. His moment was over and, while the week had been dedicated to Manny mania, there was a game to play.
And in the end, Ramirez didn’t factor into it much. Playing a far bigger role was his old runningmate, David Ortiz, whose third two-run homer of the week sent the Sox off on a barrage of offense that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone following the team of late, as they picked up a 10-6 win over the Dodgers. That home run, in fact, stood as the 275th of Ortiz’s Sox career, tying him for fifth on the club’s all-time list with Ramirez.
“Manny’s a player that he did so many good things as long as he played here,’’ Ortiz said. “All he did was put up numbers. To be right there with him, I think it just gets you to that caliber of hitter, of power hitter, with Manny is just something that’s a great feeling. Might talk to him about it tomorrow, see if he can focus on one conversation.’’
That home run was hardly the end, as the Sox knocked the Dodgers around Fenway Park last night. It allowed the fans to break out the “Beat LA!’’ chants one final time, as they begin to soothe spirits damaged by another team from the West Coast. And there was more. With the Sox’ fourth straight win and a third straight loss from both the Rays and Yankees, Boston is just one game back in the division.
As manager Terry Francona had said before the game, “I do think we’ve gotten contributions this year from a lot of different sources. It’s actually made it kind of fun.’’
Afterward he added, “we’re a little bit beat up, and I’m not saying that’s fun, but it’s a fun way to play when everybody’s helping. Everybody feels like they’re doing something, and that’s a good way. And I think you see our team, we’re playing with more personality. I’ve said that for a while now. It’s a good way to play the game.’’
One could imagine it was quite fun to be in the Sox dugout last night, with contributions again coming from up and down the lineup. After the Sox scored three in the first inning — the third on J.D. Drew homer that had to be reviewed — they scored seven more in the fifth, as the first eight men reached base before an out was recorded.
That was the inning in which the Sox broke a 3-3 tie, and knocked out two pitchers in the process. The inning began with starter Carlos Monasterios on the mound, but he lasted just three batters, giving up a single to Dustin Pedroia, a walk to Ortiz, and an RBI double to Kevin Youkilis. Next, the Dodgers trotted out Ramon Troncoso. Troncoso couldn’t manage a single out, and threw a pitch to Adrian Beltre that landed in a parking garage across Lansdowne Street, after the third baseman ended up twisted down on one knee yet again.
“Whew, he’s been a force,’’ Francona said, of Beltre. “He’s just been a force. Every day, I mean, you can tell he feels good about himself. He’s been a great player for us.’’
Troncoso was done, and Travis Schlichting was in. That was when the Dodgers finally got the first out of the inning, a fielder’s choice on which a run scored. It took three more batters before the side was retired, at which point the Sox had tied a season high for runs in an inning.
So much for Ramirez’s return. The story had already turned to the offense — and to the rookie starter controlling one of the National League’s better teams.
Though he would ultimately give up five runs (three earned) in his five-plus innings, Felix Doubront would also get a standing ovation when he walked off the field after his major league debut. He had hit 95 miles per hour on the radar gun, giving rise to an appreciation for the excitement of the Sox and pitching coach John Farrell. He was, after all, a power lefty with promise, and stood in line for the win.
“He pounded the zone with his fastball, lot of poise,’’ Francona said. “He left some balls up. He threw some good changeups, some real good ones. As we said before, the breaking ball is still kind of a work in progress. Good hitters, when they can eliminate a pitch, makes it a little bit harder.’’
Doubront allowed three runs in the third inning, helped by an error of his own, when he failed to catch a feed at first base from Youkilis. It devolved from there, with Ronnie Belliard scoring on the play, Reed Johnson reaching, and Matt Kemp following with a triple. Kemp scored on the second error of the inning, a bad drop in center by Cameron, with the ball hitting off his glove.
“He was powerful today,’’ Jason Varitek said. “We were able to find some spots, mix in some changeups, mix in some curveballs. With the lead, he kept attacking the zone.’’
Two more Dodger runs scored in the sixth, starting with a Ramirez single and Casey Blake double. Both came home on a single by James Loney, which when followed by a walk to Belliard, ended the evening for Doubront. That was when he walked off the mound, greeted by a far friendlier reception than that which had accompanied Ramirez to the plate.
Scott Atchison managed to get the Sox out of the inning without further damage, striking out Garret Anderson and Jamey Carroll and getting Kemp to ground out. Atchison would pitch two more innings, striking out five.
But it got a little close for comfort in the end.
After Dustin Richardson gave up a leadoff home run in the ninth to Anderson, the lefthander allowed singles to Kemp and Russell Martin with one out. That brought on Daniel Bard, who was only saved from having to face Ramirez as the tying run by a nice stab and fielder’s choice by Youkilis.
Still, Bard stood in to face the former Red Sox with two out, with two on, with a chance to put the Dodgers one run away.
Ramirez was one of those players Bard watched growing up, that he imagined facing one day. Now he stood in to face him.
Asked if he pictured striking him out, as he did to end the game last night, Bard said with a smile, “Of course.’’