Dynamic duo paces Red Sox
Big Papi, Manny power Boston's offense in series opener
BOSTON -- For the better part of four years, they were a production machine capable of utter devastation on opposing pitchers. But for the first three months of 2007, the David Ortiz-Manny Ramirez duo did not pack its usual wallop.
Perhaps Thursday night was a sign that things are about to return to normal for the star sluggers. Backed by Ortiz (3-for-5, two RBIs) and Ramirez (2-for-4, three RBIs), the Red Sox upended the Blue Jays and Roy Halladay, 7-4, in the first game of the second half.
"When we have a night like that, it lets people know that we're still here," said Ortiz. "We're going to keep on fighting."
Though Ortiz and Ramirez both made the journey to San Francisco for the All-Star Game, they seemed to be refreshed in this one.
"They're going to do it at some point," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "You aren't going to hold those guys down the whole year. I think they're held under a microscope. If they don't drive in 80 runs in the first half, or 70 runs, they're looked on as having a bad year. But the year's not over and you can't count them out, because there's still a lot of games to be played. And hopefully they drive in a lot of runs."
On the other side of the ball, Tim Wakefield earned his 10th win, giving up nine hits and four runs over six innings. Wakefield (89 pitches) surrendered back-to-back homers in the sixth inning to slim Boston's lead to 5-4, and that's why manager Terry Francona went to Manny Delcarmen for the seventh.
"I thought [Wakefield] was strong," Francona said. "I thought he had enough to go more. I didn't think he was tired and I think he felt like he could [keeping pitching], but the scoreboard sometimes dictates [whether you make a move]. He got us where we needed to and we had our bullpen set up. It just seemed like it was time to let Delcarmen pitch."
And Delcarmen, as he's been for the last few weeks, was strong, pitching a 1-2-3 seventh. The All-Star tandem of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon (save No. 21) took it from there.
With the win, the 54-34 Sox maintained their 10-game lead on the Yankees in the American League East.
"This team hasn't even played to its capabilities," said Sox shortstop Julio Lugo, who got his average (.201) above the Mendoza Line with a pair of hits. "Everyone hasn't gotten hot yet. David and Manny haven't gotten hot yet. This is the time for them to do it. Those guys are going to come out hot. Everyone is going to come out hot sometime."
Though Ortiz confirmed after the game he's been battling right knee woes since the first half of 2006, he is starting to feel good about his swing.
"At the end of the first half, I was kind of walking into the groove, getting my feeling back," said Ortiz. "I've just been trying to keep it that way."
The Red Sox came out swinging against Halladay. J.D. Drew led off the first with a single to right and Dustin Pedroia followed with a walk, setting up Ortiz for an RBI single to right field.
Ramirez followed with an RBI double just fair down the left-field line. A fielder's-choice grounder by Youkilis brought in another run, and Mike Lowell ripped an RBI single to left, giving Boston a 4-1 edge. Halladay faced nine batters in the inning, only getting out of it when Coco Crisp got caught between third and home.
"We did a good job making Halladay work," said Francona. "It's a close game and one pitch can determine it, but we did some good things to score first and then to stretch it out again."
Halladay again got himself into quick trouble in the second, issuing a leadoff walk to Drew. Ortiz belted another single to right, sending Drew to third and Ramirez lofted a sac fly to right to boost the lead to 5-1.
The Jays began chipping their way back in the fifth. Aaron Hill led off with a single to left, moved to second on a wild pitch and then got to third on a fielder's choice, putting himself in position to score on John McDonald's sac fly to center. In the sixth, the Jays produced a much louder rally, getting back-to-back homers from Matt Stairs and Alex Rios. Suddenly, the Sox were clinging to a 5-4 lead.
"They're a very aggressive team, and you have to understand that going into it and try to make quality pitches early," said Wakefield. "I thought I did a good job against Rios. I made one bad pitch. It was a good knuckleball in the wrong spot. You have to tip your hat to those guys, they are good hitters over there."
With Halladay gone after five innings and 112 pitches, the Red Sox went to work against the Toronto bullpen in the sixth.
It all started with a two-out infield hit by Pedroia. Ortiz followed by walloping an RBI double over the head of center fielder Wells. Up stepped Ramirez, who hammered an RBI single up the middle, giving Boston a three-run cushion.
An Ortiz-Ramirez revival? On Thursday night, that was undoubtedly the case.
"It was awesome," said Pedroia. "They'll get going. They're fine. Their numbers for the last whatever years, they don't lie. You look up again and they'll be up where they always are."
Ian Brown is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.