From the archives | May 31

Red Sox come back for wild win vs. Tigers

Nomar Garciaparra, left, celebrated with Troy O’Leary after the outfielder’s home run in the seventh inning.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Nomar Garciaparra, left, celebrated with Troy O’Leary after the outfielder’s home run in the seventh inning.

The full moon was Sunday night, but the real lunacy didn’t take place until Monday afternoon at Fenway Park.

It will go down as a nifty, come-from-behind, 8-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers, making the Red Sox 20-8 for the month of May and inflating their giddy, first-place lead over the Yankees to 1 1/2 games.

But it was so much more. This was ``Pulp Fiction’’ meets ``Bull Durham,’’ one of the nuttiest and most entertaining games of this or any season. It was Bizarro Baseball, a Holiday Festival that included 10 pitchers, six homers, four hit batsmen, three ejections, one subluxation (Mark Portugal’s shoulder), and one cleaned-out locker -- from a guy on the winning side.


That’s right. It might not rank up there with the locker-emptying of Roger Clemens and Mike Greenwell in the final week of the 1996 season, but Portugal, the Sox starter, packed his stuff and loaded his car after giving up six runs in three innings. Boston manager Jimy Williams said he expects Portugal back today.

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Old Jimywocky was the perfect guy to encapsulate the events of the final day of May.

``Strange game,’’ said the manager. ``A day game, but I was looking for that moon. I don’t know what was happening but there were some strange things.’’

Strange indeed. Most peculiar.

It started with Luis Polonia’s big-league popup that Nomar Garciaparra lost in the sun. The ball landed for a two-base hit (originally scored an error, but changed after the game, adding two more runs to Portugal’s ERA). That set the tone.


After Polonia’s 120-foot double, Tigers second baseman Damion Easley was hit for the first of three times. Actually, he was grazed three times.

The Sox got one back in the first (Nomar’s 33d RBI of the month), but Detroit struck quickly in the second. Gabe ``We Tease Him A Lot, ‘Cause We Got Him On The Spot’’ Kapler started the three-run rally with a Bucky Dent-type homer into the net.

With one on and one out, Deivi Cruz hit a one-hopper back to Portugal and the righty strained himself when he leaped and gloved the ball. His left shoulder popped out of its socket (``subluxation’’) and it looked as though Portugal’s body was being invaded by Joe Cocker. Call Ghostbusters.

``That hurt me, just watching,’’ said Williams. ``I guess it went out of its socket.’’

Portugal hung around for three full innings, then left trailing, 6-1. While the Sox came back with a barrage of homers, the veteran righty did some packing.


``I came in to get a bat and he was packing a bag,’’ said Mike Stanley. ``I guess he has some serious decisions to make in the next 24 hours.’’

Boston trailed, 6-4, in the seventh when things really got interesting. With one on and one out, Tigers manager Larry Parrish summoned rocket reliever Matt Anderson. The righty has been clocked at 103 miles per hour, which is the approximate speed at which Jason Varitek’s game-tying, two-run, pinch homer left the yard.

The Detroit flamethrower wasn’t done. He immediately surrendered a single to Garciaparra, then Troy O’Leary conked a 318-foot pop-fly homer just inside the left-field foul pole.

Stanley was next, and on a 3-and-2 pitch, Anderson drilled the first baseman with a 99-mile-per-hour fastball. The pitch hit Stanley above the left elbow and prompted Anderson’s immediate ejection by plate umpire Chuck Meriwether (he and the Tigers have some history).

Catcher Brad Ausmus was incensed and got himself tossed before behemoth Parrish could reach Meriwether for his own pink slip.

``The way Matty’s throwing, he couldn’t hit him if he threw at him,’’ reasoned Parrish.

From that point, the game moved to its inevitable conclusion. The indomitable Tom Gordon came on to record his 54th consecutive regular-season save. Imagine making The New York Times Bestseller List (Stephen King’s ``The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’’) and winning the Rolaids Relief Award in the same calendar year.

Given their first-place status and the nature of this thrilling comeback, one would have expected euphoria in the Sox clubhouse, but the mood was somewhat muted by Portugal. He met with Williams briefly, then brushed past a group of writers without commenting. His locker was nearly empty.

``He’s a little down,’’ said Williams. ``It’s a personal situation. We’ll just try to keep it in our clubhouse. I appreciate his privacy.’’

Does Williams think Portugal will report for work today?

``I think he’ll be here,’’ said the manager.

``It’s not like I’ve never seen that before,’’ said Sox pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. ``When I was with the Orioles, Jim Palmer did it once a week.’’

Portugal hasn’t won since May 9 and his ERA is 5.00.

If Portugal goes AWOL it would not be the first time a Sox pitcher bolted in the middle of a season. Bill Lee took a hike after the Sox traded his pal, Bernie Carbo, in 1978 and tall righty Gene Conley tried to fly to Israel after a frustrating loss in Yankee Stadium in 1962.

God bless the Red Sox. In bad times and in good, they are always entertaining.

We can’t wait for June.