The late, great broadcaster Ned Martin certainly would have seized on his signature salute of astonishment to sum up the historic spectacle: “Mercy.”
The Florida Marlins could have used a touch of kindness, if not a whole lot of pity, last night as the Red Sox ran roughshod over them in a record-shattering siege in which Grady Little’s marauders set a major league standard by scoring 10 runs before they made an out en route to a 25-8 drubbing before a dizzied 34,764 at Fenway Park.
In the process, they so angered the Marlins that a couple of purpose pitches were tossed, leading to a benches-clearing showdown in the ninth inning.
Mercy, indeed. Before their 50-minute first turn at bat ended, the Sox tied the American League record for runs in the first inning (14) as Johnny Damon fell a home run short of the cycle in matching a major league mark with three hits in the frame. The Sox sent 19 batters to the plate, forced three Marlins pitchers to fire 91 pitches, and set the stage for an extended evening of misery for the team that cast aside Kevin Millar like a spoiled fish.
“I don’t think any of us have ever seen anything like it,” Millar said. “It was amazing.”
Gutting Marlins starter Carl Pavano and two relievers, the Sox banged out 13 hits in the first inning on their way to matching the 53-year-old franchise record of 28 hits in a game. Their 25 runs were the second most in club history. The record dates to a 29-4 rout of the St. Louis Browns June 8, 1950, the only other time a Sox team recorded 28 hits in a game.
“It was wild,” Damon said, “but we loved every second of it.”
Amid the 4-hour-8-minute romp, Bill Mueller slugged a two-run homer on the way to knocking in a career-high six runs. Jason Varitek drove in four runs, while Manny Ramirez slugged a three-run homer and David Ortiz (three RBIs) socked a two-run shot as he joined Mueller in falling a triple shy of the cycle.
The game took a disturbing turn in the bottom of the seventh when Todd Walker’s line drive struck Florida pitcher Kevin Olsen behind the right ear, knocking him to the ground, where he lay until he was rolled away on a stretcher by a medical team and rushed to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He was listed in good condition with minor injuries and was kept overnight for observation.
An inning later, Florida reliever Blaine Neal drilled Ortiz in the right knee, prompting plate umpire Mark Carlson to issue warnings to both teams. Ortiz irked the Marlins when he briefly paused to admire his home run in the second inning, which gave the Sox a 16-1 lead. But the Marlins also believed the Sox needlessly ran up the score, particularly when Walker was thrown out trying to score on a fly to shallow center in the seventh inning with the score 21-5.
“In situations like that, you try not to rub it in,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “They have to examine their own conscience.”
In any case, the Sox responded in the ninth as Hector Almonte unleashed his second pitch of the inning behind Florida’s Andy Fox, prompting both benches to empty and the teams to engage in a brief standoff. No blows were thrown, and once calm was restored, Almonte and Little were ejected.
Little and third base coach Mike Cubbage said they understood McKeon’s feelings to a point.
“I kind of regretted sending Walker that one time,” Cubbage said, though he noted there is a fine line between piling on and protecting the game’s integrity.
Little agreed about the play in the seventh.
“I might even question that a little bit myself,” he said. “But teammates look out for other teammates. A lot of times when a guy hits a sacrifice fly and they have a chance, they are going to take it. It’s an at-bat. It’s how these guys get paid.”
But Walker had no patience for McKeon’s position.
“Every chance you get to score a run, you’re going to score a run,” said Walker, who scored three and knocked in three. “If he’s mad about that, then so be it. I lose a lot of respect for him if he’s hitting our guys because we were tagging up on sacrifice flies. If it’s because David Ortiz [showboated] on a home run, then I can accept that.”
Earlier, the mayhem was confined to the basepaths as the Sox expended so much energy scoring that Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra were lifted by the fourth inning and Doug Mirabelli was dispatched in the fifth to make his major league debut at first base. Damon finished with five hits, Mueller and Walker wound up with four, while Millar, Ortiz, and Trot Nixon each strung together three.
“We’re worn out,” an exhausted Little said.
The remarkable first inning began with the Sox trailing, 1-0, after the Marlins manufactured a run against Sox starter Byung Hyun Kim in their first turn at the plate. Damon started the onslaught by doubling down the first-base line before Walker laced a single to center, tying the score.
Harmless enough, it seemed. But not for long. A pitch later, Garciaparra doubled off the Green Monster, sending Walker to third. And Ramirez deposited the next pitch, a hanging breaking ball, onto Lansdowne Street for his 17th homer of the season, a three-run shot that suddenly made it 4-1.
Finding no mercy for Florida’s embattled starter, Ortiz banged out Boston’s fifth straight hit, a double to right, setting the stage for Millar’s first official at-bat against the Marlins since they tried to sell him to Japan before the Sox rescued him.
Millar’s response? A single to center to knock in Ortiz, extending the lead to 5-1 and sending Pavano to the showers.
Pavano became the third starter in Marlins history to fail to retire a batter. But his successor, lefthander Michael Tejera, fared no better. The Marlins hoped Tejera could at least get the better of Nixon, who was batting .191 against lefties. Instead, Nixon whistled Tejera’s first pitch for a single to right, moving Millar to second.
Tejera then walked Mueller, leaving the Sox one hit shy of matching the major league with eight straight hits before they made an out. No sweat. Varitek kept things rolling by grounding a two-run single to center, staking Kim to a 7-1 lead. And Damon, in his second appearance of the inning, topped that by tripling to the right-field corner for two more runs, making it 9-1 as the Sox set an AL record for runs scored before recording an out and tied the National League mark.
The record fell moments later when Walker singled for the second time in the inning, allowing Damon to saunter home with the 10th run. That spelled the end for Tejera, who gave way to righthander Allen Levrault.
“I think [the rally] was a product of something that was going to happen eventually,” Walker said. “I don’t think it was Pavano or anybody else on the mound. I just think it was our night.”
Lo and behold, Levrault managed to retire a batter, getting Garciaparra to make the first out by popping to Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.
Enough already? Hardly. The annihilation continued as Ramirez dropped a checked-swing single into shallow right, sending Walker to third. Levrault loaded the bases by walking Ortiz before Millar drove in his second run of the inning by lifting a sacrifice fly to shallow center, turning it into an 11-1 rout.
Levrault aggravated matters by walking Nixon to reload the bases. And Mueller deepened Florida’s suffering by lining a two-run double to left-center, extending the margin to 13-1. After Varitek walked, Damon finished it off with his record-tying third hit, a line-drive single to left that drove in Nixon with the 14th run. It might have been 15, but Mueller was cut down at the plate trying to score from second, ending the extraordinary inning.
It was especially extraordinary for Damon. “I am definitely going to cherish it,” he said.