Red Sox Appear Off-Curse
It is a simple plan that Manny Ramirez has when he has a bat in his hands, which makes the Boston slugger sort of unusual, because the Red Sox never seem to do things the simple way.
The Manny Method on how to hit a home run?
“I just go out there with my plan,” Ramirez said. “I see the ball and hit it.”
See Manny swing, see the ball soar over the fence, see the Red Sox escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth and now see something else. See the Red Sox in the American League championship series against the New York Yankees after Boston’s 4-3 victory Monday night over the hard-luck Oakland A’s in Game 5 of a thrilling division series.
Before 49,397 at the Coliseum, Ramirez powered a three-run home run off Barry Zito in a four-run sixth inning that Pedro Martinez and four Red Sox relievers somehow managed to make stand up, although not without the usual theatrics.
Derek Lowe, normally a starter and the fourth Boston reliever in the final two innings, came in to save the game for Martinez and the season for the Red Sox, who won the last three games of the series after dropping the first two.
As the crowd roared and with runners on second and third with one out, Lowe struck out pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse on a slider.
Then, after walking Chris Singleton to load the bases, Lowe ended the game when he struck out pinch-hitter Terrence Long on almost the same pitch, a slider that broke away from the left-handed hitter and down over the inside part of the plate.
Those two sliders were works of art, said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.
“The execution of those two pitches were everything I could have asked for.
“Perfect. Dropped about a foot.”
That’s not nearly as low as the A’s, who will spend yet another off-season adding up their misfortune. For the fourth consecutive year, they lost in the first round. And for the ninth straight time, they failed to win a game that would have wrapped up the series.
“It’s just a shame somebody has to lose,” said A’s Manager Ken Macha.
The A’s might have fared better if they had gotten much from Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez, who are their top two hitters. But Tejada hit only .087 and Chavez was even worse at .045. They were a combined three for 46 and the A’s as a team hit .213, scoring 18 runs in five games.
The game took a scary turn in the seventh inning, when Boston center fielder Johnny Damon was taken from the field in an ambulance after a frightening head-to-head collision with second baseman Damian Jackson. Both players were converging on a fly ball.
But even that couldn’t take too much away from an excellent series.
“I don’t care if you’re an A’s fan or a Red Sox fan, it doesn’t matter, those were five outstanding games,” Lowe said.
Pitching on three days’ rest for the first time, Zito seemed as sharp as he was when he won Game 2, at least through the first five innings.
Only two Red Sox had reached base and only Damon had gone as far as second while Zito protected the 1-0 lead given him on Jose Guillen’s double to the wall in the fourth that scored Scott Hatteberg from first.
But in the sixth, the Red Sox caught up on one swing by Varitek. Zito left a 3-and-2 fastball up over the plate and Varitek sent the ball over the left field wall for his second home run of the series.
Damon walked and one out later, Zito hit Todd Walker with a pitch. That brought up Ramirez. Macha stayed with Zito, who had struck out Ramirez in the second and fourth innings.
Ramirez, who had only three hits in 18 at-bats, worked the count to 2-and-2. Zito’s next pitch, a fastball, never reached the catcher’s mitt. Ramirez knocked the ball deep to left field and as it soared, he took only a few steps to admire his work, then started running only when the ball disappeared over the green wall, just to the left of the 367-foot sign.
Damon and Walker scored in front of Ramirez, who picked up his first three runs batted in all at once and with an acute sense of timing.
“He is one of the greatest hitters in the game, but they’ve been pitching to him,” Boston’s David Ortiz said “They didn’t make too many mistakes. Maybe just one.”
Zito (1-1) finished the inning, but he was done after 99 pitches and could only sit back and watch what Martinez and the Red Sox would do with a 4-1 lead.
The A’s got a run back in the sixth on a double by Tejada that scored Erubiel Durazo and another in the eighth on Billy McMillon’s single that scored Singleton. That was it for Martinez and on came the often criticized Red Sox relievers. Lowe followed Alan Embree, Mike Timlin and Scott Williamson.
Celebrating after the other team leaves the bases loaded in a one-run game is sort of the way Timlin thought it would happen.
“We didn’t know there was going to be a tomorrow,” he said.
“But I did know something. I knew this was going to be our destiny.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Yankees vs. Red Sox
Yankees 101-61, Red Sox 95-67.
HEAD TO HEAD
Yankees won season series, 10-9.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Yankees defeated Twins in division series, 3-1. Red Sox defeated Athletics in division series, 3-2.
Yankees .271, sixth in AL; Red Sox .289, first in AL.
Yankees 877, third in AL; Red Sox 961, first in AL.
Yankees 4.02, third in AL; Red Sox 4.48, eighth in AL.
Derek Jeter vs. Nomar Garciaparra. Bernie Williams vs. Manny Ramirez. The ghost of Joe DiMaggio vs. the ghost of Ted Williams. The Red Sox had the best offense in the AL during the season, but this is the playoffs, against the Yankees.
The Red Sox have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Pedro Martinez and he will probably have to win every one of his starts for the Red Sox to have a chance. The Yankees have a future Hall of Famer in Roger Clemens, but he was 2-3 with an 8.67 ERA against the Red Sox. The Yankees might just want to let Mariano Rivera pitch every game. He was 3-0 with four saves against Boston.
Rivera is one of the best closers in the game, while Boston had to turn to Derek Lowe to save the decisive Game 5 against Oakland. The Yankee setup men have been spotty, but Manager Joe Torre is not afraid to extend Rivera to two innings in the playoffs.
Neither team had a good year here. Jeter and Garciaparra are mainly out there for their bats. The Red Sox (ninth) and Yankees (11th) were in the bottom half of the AL in fielding percentage.
-- Houston Mitchell