Last night was proof Fenway Park is not Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
It may belong to Mister Ramirez or Mister Ortiz or Mister Damon or Mister Varitek. It may be Mister Schilling’s or even Mister Arroyo’s. But definitely not Mister Rogers.
Texas lefthander Kenny Rogers’s return to the mound after serving a 13-game suspension (reduced from 20 by an arbitrator Tuesday) for shoving two cameramen in Arlington, Texas, June 29, ended after a pounding from the Red Sox bats and a verbal pounding by the Fenway faithful, who booed Rogers every time he took the mound.
Rogers, who also suffered a deep bruise of his right forearm after David Ortiz hit a liner back at him with two outs in the first inning, lasted five innings and allowed five runs on seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts in a 16-5 loss to the Red Sox, who put up a nine-spot for good measure in the eighth after the Rangers had cut the deficit to 7-5.
The Red Sox, who stretched their home winning streak to 11, are 5 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees, Boston’s largest lead since finishing the 1995 season seven games better than New York.
It’s amazing how the defending world champions pulverize bad pitching. And the Rangers have bad pitching.
It’s also amazing that teams keep pitching around Ortiz and are willing to take their chances with Manny Ramirez.
While it’s a pick-your-poison strategy, pitching to Ramirez doesn’t seem a wise move these days.
“I don’t know what the idea is,” said Ortiz, “but you take a risk, pitching around me and then facing Manny. That’s not a guy you want to face when you have men on base. Manny can cover both sides of the plate. I don’t care about walking as long as Manny keeps hitting home runs and I’m on first that’s OK. I don’t want him to hit doubles when I’m on because I have to run my [butt] off.”
Ramirez’s three-run blast off Rogers highlighted Boston’s five-run fourth. Ramirez is an RBI machine. The All-Star left fielder has 32 homers and 107 RBIs with 49 games left to play.
“I think he’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen,” marveled Sox manager Terry Francona. “I think you put him in our lineup and it makes it even better because of David and everybody else. If those guys hit with men on base, they’re going to drive the majority of them in.”
“It’s just amazing to watch him sometimes,” said Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler. “You just wonder how he does it. You wonder what it’s like to have that kind of talent, to be able to hit the ball like he does. There are times he looks like he’s not even in the at-bat. And then all of sudden he locks back into it and pops a double or a home run. We know as hitters how hard it is to be in that situation, and to watch Manny do it so effortlessly is impressive and it’s awe-inspiring.”
Rogers got through three innings unscathed, partly because of a botched call by veteran umpire Derryl Cousins on what appeared to a home run to left-center by Kapler in the third. The ball cleared the red line and went onto the “shelf” on top of the Wall in front of the Monster seats.
Cousins saw it differently. Protests from the Sox bench ensued. Francona was hot. First base coach Lynn Jones was hot. Trot Nixon, currently on the 15-day disabled list, shouted at Cousins from the bench and was ejected.
The umpires convened to talk about it, but ruled the ball was in play, leaving Kapler at second, where he was stranded.
By the time this one was over, the Sox didn’t miss that run.
Ramirez’s shot came with Edgar Renteria and Ortiz (singles) aboard. The Sox rallied for two more after a Kevin Millar single and Tony Graffanino double, with RBIs from Bill Mueller (single) and Kapler (ground out).
“We’re just doing everything well as a team right now,” Millar said. “We’re hitting home runs, getting key hits, you see Alex Cora dropping down a nice sacrifice bunt the other night and we’re getting good pitching.”
The Sox’ recent offensive surge has certainly made up for some sloppy defense. Errorless last night, Boston had made 10 errors leading to 12 unearned runs over its previous five games.
Lost in this offensive explosion was starter Bronson Arroyo, who spotted the potent Ranger lineup a run in the third on back-to-back doubles by Kevin Mench and Gary Matthews. But Arroyo, who improved to 10-7, went 7 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and fanned four, before the Rangers rallied for four runs in the eighth.
“I had good command of the fastball tonight which was nice to offset the breaking ball,” said Arroyo who threw an economical 97 pitches. “These guys are very aggressive. They like to swing the bat. They aren’t going to work you that much. Other than Michael Young, their guys swing at one of the first two or three pitches.”
Francona felt that Rogers, whose record fell to 11-5 in 21 starts, was affected by getting hit by the Ortiz liner. While Rogers did not hang around to speak to the media after the game, he had X-rays that revealed a deep bruise. Texas manager Buck Showalter felt the line drive had a greater affect on Rogers than the layoff.
Renteria, who had three hits and also cleared the bases on a bases-loaded error by center fielder Matthews in the nine-run eighth, scored on a wild pitch by Doug Brocail after he’d doubled to left center and advanced to third on Ortiz’s ground out to first base in the seventh. The Sox continued the inning on Ramirez’s walk and a single by Millar. The seventh run scored on Graffanino’s grounder to third on which Millar was out on a force play.
The Rangers did some damage against Arroyo and Chad Bradford in the eighth as 7-1 soon became 7-5. But Ramirez made a nice running catch to end the rally.
Schilling was warming up to come in to save the two-run game. But Schilling soon sat down when nine runs, five hits, and two errors in the ninth afforded the Sox a chance to rest him.