Varitek, Lester power opener; Ortiz gives juice to sweep of A’s
Nobody at Fenway Park faced a greater challenge yesterday than groundskeeper Dave Mellor in trying to figure out how to get in two games amid downpours related to Hurricane Irene. He searched endlessly for ways to keep the playing field above water.
Mellor and his crew worked feverishly to keep the infield playable as the Red Sox’ doubleheader with Oakland was played in its entirety (including three rain delays totaling four hours). The beneficiaries were the Sox, who swept the A’s, 9-3 and 4-0, on a day when baseball began at noon and ended at 10:58 p.m.
With the Yankees having their doubleheader postponed yesterday, the Sox added to their AL East lead, going up two games.
It was a nice comeback for the Sox after they were blitzed Friday, 15-5.
“We were fortunate the way it worked out,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “It worked out really well. We can let the guys regroup for a couple of days now.’’
The announced attendance for Game 1 was 37,314, which extended the Red Sox’ sellout streak to 695, although there were hardly that many people in the stands. With so many empty seats, the Sox let Game 2 patrons into the park in the eighth inning of the opener as the game resumed for good after a delay of 2 hours 15 minutes. The second game was also deemed sold out.
The three hours of delays in Game 1 didn’t deter the Sox, who struck for nine runs in the first five innings. The nightcap, which didn’t start until 6:50 p.m., had a one-hour rain delay after the fourth inning that curtailed starter Erik Bedard’s outing. Bedard had pitched four-plus scoreless but tedious innings, walking four, three of them in the first inning.
When play resumed, Bedard was replaced by Alfredo Aceves, who shut down the A’s for three innings. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon completed the three-hit shutout.
David Ortiz was the hitting star of the doubleheader. He went 2 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs in the first game and had three hits, including a two-run homer, in the nightcap. Ortiz now has 27 homers, 86 RBIs, and a 12-game hitting streak (24 for 46, .522).
The homer followed a second-inning leadoff double by Dustin Pedroia (3 for 8, 3 RBIs). The Sox added a run in the fourth on singles by Pedroia, Ortiz, and Jed Lowrie, and a Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounder to first. Saltalamacchia’s bloop double to right in the sixth brought home Lowrie with the fourth Sox run.
It was a good day and night overall for the catching tandem of Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek, who knocked in five runs between them.
Varitek drove in three runs in the opener, two of them coming on a two-out home run (his ninth) into the Sox bullpen in the second.
“I hit it pretty good,’’ said Varitek, who was batting lefthanded. “Sometimes when balls are hit in that direction, they kind of take a turn toward that left-hand corner.’’
Varitek knocked in a run in the fifth with a single to bring in Ortiz, who led off with a double to right-center, his second double of the game.
Varitek’s performance, coupled with that of starter Saltalamacchia, have made the catching position work out splendidly for the Red Sox. The backstops have combined for 22 home runs and 75 RBIs.
“I think he’s still got a lot left and he’s been proving that,’’ Francona said of Varitek. “It’s nice when he chips in with home runs when he has the chance. I think the playing time he’s getting, probably is just about perfect.
“He’s kept himself in such great shape, but we don’t want to run him out there every game. It’s not fair to him. The production out of our catching has been tremendous.’’
The Sox got another solid outing from Jon Lester, who pitched six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) in winning his 14th game.
After a rain delay in the top of the seventh, and with a seven-run lead, there was no need for Lester to come back for more.
Where it was all Oakland Friday, it was all Boston in Game 1 until the tarp came on the field before the start of the seventh with the Sox holding a 9-2 lead.
The A’s scored in the second on a home run by Brandon Allen. In the third, Marco Scutaro booted a grounder by Scott Sizemore, who eventually scored on Coco Crisp’s sacrifice fly.
Varitek said of Lester’s outing, “It was good. The home run he gave up was a pretty good pitch, a pretty good swing. Other than that, they manufactured runs. So it was pretty good.’’
The rain created an interesting issue when Major League Baseball ruled that Game 1 had to be completed before Game 2 could begin.
The opener was well in hand and, with the hurricane approaching, the Sox were hoping to avoid a rainout in Game 2 and thus a makeup game late in the season by speeding things up. There was precedent. On April 22, 2009, against the Twins at Fenway, the first game of a doubleheader was called after seven innings with the Sox leading, 10-1. The second game began 47 minutes later and was played in its entirety.
According to a team source, the Sox pushed to get the game called after seven innings, citing that 2009 game, to no avail. Instead, they waited 2 hours 15 minutes after the seventh inning in the second delay.
“I know MLB ruled on it. We’ve done it the other way,’’ said Francona. “I don’t know if it’s a hard-and-fast rule or judgment. We just go where they tell us.’’
The decision was made by MLB chief of baseball operations Joe Torre.
Crew chief Tim McClelland said the 2009 doubleheader “was an aberration.’’
“According to the rules, that can’t happen or shouldn’t happen. They didn’t want that. They wanted this game to finish.’’
McClelland added, “I remember being somewhere else and I saw that, and I thought, ‘That’s really bizarre.’ If you can’t play the game you’re playing, how can you play another game?’’