Manny Ramirez homered for the second straight game to lead a resurgent effort by the middle of the Sox order in a 9-5 win in front of a sellout crowd of 36,137 at Fenway Park. The Sox, who outscored the Giants 20-7 after getting outscored 20-5 by the Rockies Tuesday through Thursday, remained 8 ½ games ahead of the scorching Yankees in the AL East heading into a nine-game, 11-day road trip to Atlanta, San Diego and Seattle.
“It’s great to walk away 4-2 in this homestand,” winning pitcher Tim Wakefield said. “To be able to sweep a team like San Francisco…it says a lot about the depth of our team. The pitching was good, our offense came around today.”
On the scoreboard, at least, the offense showed signs of coming around Friday, when the Sox cruised to a 10-2 win. But the key contributors in the opener were the new 1-2 punch of J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia, who reached base in nine of 10 plate appearances and combined for eight RBI, eight hits and five runs scored.
Though Ramirez’ solo homer was the only offense in a 1-0 win Saturday, the 3-4-5 hitters reached base just seven times total in the first two games. Led by their 3-4-5 hitters Sunday—David Ortiz, Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis—the Sox knocked around Matt Morris, who’d thrown complete games in his two previous starts, for eight runs in four innings. Ortiz, Ramirez and Youkilis reached base seven times in 12 plate appearances and combined to go 6-for-11 with one homer, six RBI and four runs scored.
“If they stay in the strike zone and keep the line moving and hit the ball the other way and drive the ball, the home runs will come,” Terry Francona said. “[Home runs are] not the end-all, be-all. The three-run homers are great and we’ll get our share of them from those guys. But when they have good at-bats, we’re in good shape.”
Ramirez is on pace for his fewest homers and RBI in a decade, but his 2-for-4 outing Sunday raised his overall average to .293 and lifted his June average to a robust .388 (19-for-49). “Manny’s been swinging the bat well,” Drew said. “A lot of guys swing the bat well [and] just hit some balls right at guys. I think he’s got the mindset if you hit it over the fence, there’s nobody there that can catch it. So it worked out good.”
The offensive outburst provided Wakefield some rare breathing room. The Sox had scored just 36 runs with Wakefield on the mound in his first 13 starts, a span of 82 2/3 innings. He had to make two runs stand up Tuesday, when he allowed just one run on four hits over eight innings in earning a win against the Rockies.
He didn’t need to be quite so good Sunday, when he allowed five runs—including a solo homer to ex-teammate Barry Bonds, whose 748th homer carried with the wind into the visitors bullpen in the sixth—on eight hits while walking one and striking out three in 5 2/3 innings. The first two starters of the series for the Sox, Julian Tavarez and Daisuke Matsuzaka, allowed just two runs over 14 innings Friday and Saturday.
Manny Delcarmen stranded a runner at third to end the sixth and preserve the Sox’ 8-6 lead, but the biggest outs following Wakefield’s departure were recorded by forgotten man Joel Pineiro, who came on with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and got Bengie Molina to hit into a double play on his first pitch.
“The game was getting a little quick there, and at a key time he gets a one-pitch double play ground ball and it quiets everything down,” Francona said. “That was the big point for me in the game.”
Said Wakefield: “I think overall, all the pistons of the engine—especially in this three-game series—were working. Daisuke pitched great [Saturday] and Tavarez pitched unbelievable on Friday night. And tonight I pitched good enough to win I think our offense won the game for us. And when you have everything working at the same time, it makes our team pretty tough. We’re deep through the lineup, we’re deep in our pitching staff—not only the starting staff but our bullpen [too].”
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-979-0979.