He was signaling for a home run, but he may as well have been calling the fight.
When Jeff Kellogg finally pulled away from the monitor, hopped up the stairs by the Detroit Tigers dugout with two of the three other umpires in his crew, and swirled his index finger in the air, he was tacking another run on a Red Sox lead that was already insurmountable.
The seventh-inning fly ball that Ryan Lavarnway sent howling at the Green Monster cleared The Wall by a hair before ricocheting back onto the outfield grass.
There was no doubt how hard he hit it. From the Sox dugout, third baseman Will Middlebrooks could smell the fumes coming off it.
“He smoked that ball,” Middlebrooks said. “That’s a line drive over the Monster.”
But Lavarnway wasn’t sure it was enough.
“I haven’t hit as many homers this year as I have in the past, so especially on a close one like that, I wasn’t at all sure,” Lavarnway said.
By the way the ball shot back off the Wall, he figured it climbed over. But he held up at second and waited for the umpires to review it.
But at that point, with the Red Sox coming off an eight-run sixth inning, the difference between an RBI double and a two-run homer seemed negligible.
It was a matter of throwing more dirt on a team that was already buried.
Lavarnway’s blast was the sixth of the Sox’s eight home runs, tying the franchise record for a game, also at Fenway Park, July 4, 1977 vs. the Blue Jays.
By the time it was all done Wednesday night, the Red Sox’ 20-4 runaway was emphatic.
Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz (2), Middlebrooks (grand slam), Daniel Nava, Stephen Drew, and Mike Napoli also went deep, unloading on a Tigers pitching staff that entered having given up the fewest homers of any team in the American League.
“You get in situations where momentum starts going your way and everyone feels a little more confident going to the plate because hitting is contagious,” Lavarnway said. “You just give it to the next guy and things start falling. Things are going your way and you saw what can happen.”
It was hard for even Red Sox manager John Farrell to wrap his head around.
At one point, he was trying to figure out a way to manufacture runs, watching Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia grind out at-bats. By the end of the night, a team-record seven different players had gone deep.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been a part of one with the number of balls that left the ballpark,” Farrell said.
With the Sox and the Tigers in the rubber game of their duel for AL supremacy, possible postseason foreshadowing seemed to linger over every pitch.
Their first two games played out like methodical grappling, ultra-intense pitching duels soaked in playoff-level tension.
But in the finale, the Sox hit the Tigers with a hammer punch as a parting shot.
“This is a team we’re probably going to see late in the season, at least we think so,” Middlebrooks said. “They have a great pitching staff. They have a great bullpen. It felt really good to do it against a team like that.”
The blast that blew the hinges off the game came from Middlebrooks, who’s been rejuvenated since being recalled a month ago.
When he stepped to the plate in the sixth, the Tigers were already in the middle of a mess.
Trailing, 5-4, starter Rick Porcello had just walked Mike Carp with the bases loaded and Tigers manager Jim Leyland called on reliever Al Alburquerque to manage the crisis.
Even though the face on the mound was new, once Alburquerque missed with a first-pitch slider, Middlebrooks still knew what to expect.
“I had a good idea I was going to get a heater for a strike; he didn’t want to go down 2-0 with the bases loaded,” Middlebrooks said. “I knew they would come in on me because that’s where they were successful in my first at-bat. So I just looked in and I got it.”
Alburquerque fed him a fastball in. Middlebrooks stroked it over the Wall.
At that point, after suffocating in a game that provided little breathing room, Farrell figured the Sox simply had some cushion.
“We had no idea what was about to take place shortly after that,” Farrell said.
More homers were on the way, courtesy of Ortiz, Nava, Lavarnway and Napoli.
“It’s one of those days where, I mean obviously we’re a good team and we know they’re a good team, too, and everything fell,” Nava said. “Balls that may have stayed in the park didn’t stay in the park. We’re not going to complain about it, that’s for sure. At the same time, we know we had a lot of things go our way. We know we’re a good team, so you combine those two and what you saw is the result.”
Ortiz went 3 for 5 with two homers and four RBIs.
When he ripped an RBI double in the middle off that huge sixth inning, a milestone was waiting for him at second base. It was his 2,000th career hit.
His face flashed on the scoreboard. The crowd showered him with cheers, and when he launched his second home run of the night in the seventh inning he came out of the dugout and tipped his cap in appreciation.
“That was pretty special that he earned that standing ovation,” Nava said.
After striking out seven over six innings, Ryan Dempster (8-9) marveled at the overflow of run support. The Tigers were one of two teams, along with the Yankees, that he had never notched a win against.
But more than that, in 10 starts dating to June 30, he had only factored into three decisions. Even though he gave up seven homers and had a 5.75 ERA over those starts, he still left with the lead seven times and the Sox were able to pull out eight wins.
“One through nine, we’ve got a guy who can hit the ball over the wall,” Dempster said. “That’s something not a lot of teams have.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.