He’d had more than half the game to unwind in the Red Sox clubhouse. But that wasn’t long enough - despite the fact his team snapped a 5-5 tie to beat the Yankees, 8-5 - for the manager to prepare himself for that moment before the microphone.
The question: Why was Ron Jackson, the Sox’ usually pacific hitting coach, ejected by home plate umpire Greg Gibson in the fourth inning?
“[Gibson said] he read his lips,” Terry Francona said. “That [expletive] guy can’t even see the ball in front of him. That was a [expletive] answer.”
Don’t expect the Sox to get a call with Gibson behind the plate any time soon. Francona seemed to think if his team didn’t get the call on Bronson Arroyo’s full-count pitch to Gary Sheffield with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, the Sox never will. Arroyo’s curveball snapped over the plate and finished in the middle of the zone, if anything a bit high.
Ball 4, Gibson ruled.
“The only person that got fooled more than Sheffield was the ump,” Francona said.
The Yankees plated one run on that walk, then three more on a Hideki Matsui single and an Alex Rodriguez bloop single, erasing a 4-1 deficit and vaulting ahead, 5-4.
But that ejection, that noncall, galvanized the Red Sox in what was the most emotional game of the six played between these teams just two weeks into the season.
Captain Jason Varitek tied the game in the bottom of the inning with a shot that screamed over the Sports Authority sign atop the Monster seats.
“One of the best swings I’ve ever seen Tek make,” Francona said.
The catcher’s team-leading third homer was also the team’s third of the game against Yankees ace Randy Johnson. In the second inning, Jay Payton reached down and belted a 94-mile-per-hour Johnson fastball that landed in the second row of the bleachers in center for a 2-0 lead. In the third, slumping Edgar Renteria (.219, 0 HRs, 4 RBIs coming in) deposited an 82-m.p.h. Johnson slider into Row 1 of the Monster seats, staking the Sox to a 4-1 lead.
“When you sign a four-year deal and come to Boston, you’re supposed to be a great player on Day 1,” Francona said. “Edgar’s smart enough. He didn’t panic.”
Last night, Johnson (7 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 9 K’s, 2 BBs) gave up three home runs in a game for just the 11th time since he broke into the big leagues in 1988. The last time was Aug. 15, 2003, against Atlanta, when Vinny Castilla, Marcus Giles, and Andruw Jones all left the yard off the lanky southpaw.
Varitek’s blast, which tied it at 5-5, was about all Francona got to see. Two batters later, Bill Mueller took a 1-and-2 pitch low and in. Gibson called it a strike. Francona hopped out of the dugout, knowing he’d be tossed.
“I’d seen enough,” he said. “I didn’t want to see him umpire anymore.”
In an odd, artistic ejection, Gibson reached back, pump faked, then reached back again and gave the Sox skipper the heave-ho. That put bench coach Brad Mills back in position to manage at least part of a game for the fourth time in nine days.
What Francona missed was something the Sox can build upon as they put the Yankees and all these offdays behind them and settle into the schedule.
Renteria doubled in Johnny Damon off Yankees reliever Tom Gordon for a 6-5 Boston lead in the eighth, and Varitek shot a Gordon pitch down the right-field line, plating two more for the 8-5 lead. The ball rolled and rolled, and Varitek easily legged out a triple. His arrival at third was anticlimactic, juxtaposed against the chaos in right field.
As Sheffield fielded the ball, a fan reached down and swung his arm at either Sheffield or the ball. Sheffield, before throwing the ball back to the infield, swung at the fan. Beer splattered. Moments later, a security guard, who presumably came out of the bullpen, leaped into the stands, separating Sheffield and the fan.
“I wouldn’t want to play right field for us the next time we go to Yankee Stadium,” said Curt Schilling.
“I’m sure guys on our team wouldn’t have been too happy, either, if it happened to us,” said Arroyo, who went 5 2/3 innings and allowed nine hits, five runs, and four walks.
Gordon, meanwhile, has given up nine earned runs in his last 10 appearances (10 1/3 innings) against the Sox, American League Championship Series included.
The big inning and the Sheffield incident led to a lengthy delay for Sox closer Keith Foulke, who’d pitched the top of the eighth and was waiting to go back out in the ninth. The ninth was vintage Foulke. He allowed a Sheffield double, then went to a full count on the next four Yankees. Matsui walked, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada flied to left, and Jason Giambi walked. With the bases loaded, pinch hitter Ruben Sierra popped to Varitek, who caught the final out leaning into the stands along the third base line.
Foulke threw 53 pitches in earning the win. And Foulke, being Foulke, asked Francona soon after the game if he could pitch again tonight.
“He’ll have a day off,” the manager said with a smile.