History happens on its own time, even when it doesn’t appear on the original schedule.
That it should fall on Nomar Garciaparra’s 29th birthday? Purely coincidence.
A makeup game yesterday between the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays required a makeover of the record book before it was over, with Garciaparra hitting three home runs - two in the third inning, a grand slam in the fourth - and driving in eight runs in a 22-4 win over the D-Rays that had an announced crowd of 33,190 serenading the Sox shortstop with birthday greetings before it was over.
But celebration turned to shock in the rain-delayed night game, when the Devil Rays scored five runs before making an out in the ninth inning against Sox relievers Chris Haney and Ugueth Urbina to beat the Sox, 5-4, and split the doubleheader. It was the Sox third last-at bat loss in their last four games.
By losing the second game, in which Derek Lowe threw seven shutout innings after a 2-hour-13-minute rain delay, the Sox picked up just a half-game on the Yankees, 9-3 losers to the Indians, when they could have sliced a game and a half off their lead.
“I just feel bad more than anything for Derek,” said Haney, who had worked a scoreless eighth inning. “He goes out there and throws great, and we’re in a great situation going into the ninth inning and I didn’t get an .”
After lefthander Haney loaded the bases by giving up two singles and hitting Ben Grieve with a pitch, Urbina gave up a two-run double to former Sox infielder Andy Sheets and a three-run home run to Jared Sandberg, the 24-year-old nephew of former Cubs All-Star Ryne Sandberg. Urbina, who walked Jorge Posada with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Sunday in New York, absorbed his second loss in the last three games and dropped his record to 0-6.
Devil Rays closer Esteban Yan struck out Manny Ramirez, who had staked the Sox to an early lead with a two-run single in the first, with runners on first and second to end the game, a stunning finish before a crowd of 32,729 that witnessed the day’s last just before midnight. The Devil Rays had lost nine straight games against the Sox before perhaps the most improbable win of the season for the majors’ youngest team; they began the night 2-54 in games in which they trailed after eight innings.
“Just plain old baseball,” said Trot Nixon, who appeared to have put the nightmare of his ninth-inning error Sunday in the Bronx behind him with six hits yesterday, four in the first game. “Those guys battled back. Ugie is our man, and we’ve played behind him every step of the way.
“There’s a lot of reasons we lost. Those guys battled back. If you ask all the position players, I’ll bet we’ll all say we could have scored a few more runs out there. Opportunities, but it’s just one game. It’s a tough loss, but in the same sense these are the kind of obstacles you run into in the course of a season.
“Ugie, he’s thrown a lot. He’s thrown a lot here the last week. But he’s the kind of guy that wants the ball every time. That’s something special in a closer.”
The day couldn’t have been more special for Garciaparra and the Sox yesterday afternoon. “It was funny,” said second baseman Lou Merloni, who resisted the urge to join in the singing, which Garciaparra acknowledged with a wave in the ninth. “It sounded like the Yankee fans’ roll call.”
That Merloni was still in a New York state of mind yesterday afternoon was understandable, given the excruciating way the Sox lost two straight on the weekend to the Yankees. But fears of a hangover effect disappeared in a 10-run third inning, which Johnny Damon led off with the first of seven home runs hit yesterday afternoon by the Sox, with Garciaparra and Ramirez hitting consecutive home runs in the inning and combining for five home runs, 13 RBIs, five runs scored, and six hits by the end of the afternoon. In the process, they also set a major league record by becoming the first teammates to combine for nine home runs in two games.
Damon was on base five times with a double, two singles, and a walk in addition to his home run. Nixon, whose psyche supposedly was tender after a damaging error Sunday, had four hits, including his 14th home run, and Merloni scored four times in front of Garciaparra and Ramirez as the Sox, ahead, 16-4, after four innings, amassed 19 hits, equaling their season high.
“I’m sure you guys had the script all written when we were down, 4-0,” said Merloni, referring to the deficit facing Sox starter Tim Wakefield after two innings. “People were expecting there’d be a letdown after those last two games in New York. But the way this team has hung together all season, I knew there wouldn’t be a letdown.
“Our bats woke up in New York, and carried over here. People here have been waiting to see Nomar and Manny both swinging the way they are now. They didn’t get that chance last year, and now it’s exciting to see.”
The D-Rays became the first team in three years to give up 20 or more runs to the Sox, who have done it 15 times in all. As if that wasn’t punishment enough, they also had to hang around last night to face Lowe, the Sox pitcher who threw a no-hitter against them here on April 27.
Rain provided at least a temporary reprieve, with the fans who stuck out the delay given the option of watching Yankees-Indians on the Fenway Park video screen. Better, perhaps, to replay the day game, except for Tanyon Sturtze, the Worcester native who gave up three home runs, two doubles, two singles, and a walk in the span of 10 batters before Tampa Bay manager Hal McRae decided to spare him any futher abuse.
McRae didn’t even have anyone warming up until Nixon, the eighth batter in the inning, had doubled to make it 6-4.
The 22 runs were the most unanswered runs in an American League game in 49 years, since the Yankees beat the Washington Senators Aug. 12, 1953. The Cubs scored 22 unanswered runs in a 22-6 win over San Diego May 17, 1977.
Garciaparra, who hit three home runs (two grand slams) here and drove in 10 runs against the Mariners May 10, 1999, joined Ted Williams (3), Jim Rice (2), and Mo Vaughn (2) as the only players in Sox history to have multiple games of three home runs. He and Vaughn are the only players to have done so in Fenway.
Garciaparra hit his first home run over the screen in left off Sturtze on a 3-and-0 fastball. It was the second time this season Garciaparra has gone deep on a 3-and-0 pitch, a count on which he never used to swing in the past.
Brandon Backe, who entered in the third and retired Merloni on a popup, gave up the second home run, a 395-foot screen job, to make it 10-4 in the third, and also yielded the slam, another screen shot (370 feet) on a 2-and-2 breaking ball.
Garciaparra had two more opportunities to become the third player this season (Mike Cameron, Shawn Green) to hit four home runs in a game. But he was walked in the sixth by Steve Kent and hit a first-pitch flyball to center in the eighth against Travis Phelps.
“The wind was blowing the ball pretty good today . . . did you guys see that, it was blowing out,” Garciaparra said. “That’s nice for a change. You just try to do what the situation asks, do what the situation asks. You try to drive in runs. If they happen to go out of the ballpark, sometimes they hit the wall . . . a lot of times.”
Garciaparra, who homered twice on Sunday against the Yankees, had five home runs and 11 RBIs in two games after batting .185 (10 for 54) with no home runs and six RBIs in 13 games, the worst slump of his Sox career. He went 1 for 5 in the nightcap.