Recharged bats carry Sox over Indians
Ramirez homers twice, lineup combines for 17 hits
CLEVELAND -- The Boston bats had gone into a near silent state over the past two games, scoring a grand total of one run. Perhaps all it took was one lethal swing by Manny Ramirez to recharge the entire batting order.
Ramirez's 481-foot rocket to center field was the first of many big hits by the Red Sox in what wound up a 14-9 thumping of the Indians on Thursday night at Jacobs Field, allowing the visitors to leave Cleveland with three wins in the four-game series.
For Ramirez it was the type of monster performance (four runs, three hits, two homers, four RBIs) that he used to provide at the Jake on a regular basis during his years with the Indians.
But that solo homer he struck in the second inning on Cliff Lee's meaty, 89-mph fastball had to be one of the loudest and longest of the 487 he's hit in his career. The blast not only cleared the regular wall in center, it soared over a back wall and into some shrubbery.
Per usual, Ramirez declined to speak with reporters. But his teammates had plenty to say.
"He's incredible. He's one of the greatest, pretty much of all-time," said center fielder Coco Crisp. "And he's still in the game and still fairly young. You come to expect those things from him and [David Ortiz]."
It was the third-longest home run in the history of Jacobs Field, which opened in 1994, trailing only Jim Thome's 511-foot smash and a 486-foot missile by Mark McGwire.
Mike Lowell (three hits, two RBIs), Jason Varitek (two hits, two RBIs) and Crisp (2-for-4, two runs, one RBI) joined Ramirez as mainstays who had productive nights at the dish. But the Sox also got a big boost from Wily Mo Pena, who broke out of his recent tailspin with four hits, including a three-run homer that was hit as hard as Ramirez's homer was far.
"That home run was one of the hardest balls ... that's a hard ball to see go out," said manager Terry Francona. "It looked like it might go through."
Pena, who entered the night hitting .122 in his last 22 games, finished just a triple away from the cycle.
"I felt more confident tonight," said Pena. "I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, and I was getting it, and I was putting the swing in there. My last couple of starts, I was getting beat by the fastball. Today I came in with the mind-set of being ready and on time to hit the ball."
As it turns out, all the offense was anything but excessive. Boston's pitching staff had nightmares trying to contain the dangerous Indians. Left-hander Kason Gabbard, staked to a 9-1 lead, could not get the win. That's because he imploded in the bottom of the fifth, getting into such trouble that Francona had to remove him one out shy of being eligible to earn the victory. Gabbard's last act of the night was hitting Travis Hafner with the bases loaded to cut the lead to 9-5.
"When he hit Hafner, you want to leave him out there so he can get the win," said Francona. "It's just ... the way they were going, it looked like it was time to get him out."
Gabbard, who had pitched brilliantly in his previous two starts, was in no position to argue.
"Honestly, to me, it's kind of embarrassing to have that 9-1 lead and have all that happen and not finish the inning," said Gabbard.
Not to worry, though. Julian Tavarez came on with the bases loaded and two outs, the lead down to four runs, and escaped without further damage. It was Tavarez, who was demoted from the rotation last week to make room for the returning Jon Lester, who picked up the win.
The Red Sox came out swinging in this one, backed by Ramirez's tone-setting shot.
"Everybody was getting excited about that," said Pena. "They had me laughing about it. It was unbelievable."
The misfire to Ramirez wasn't the end of Indians starter Cliff Lee's problems. He gave up nine hits and eight runs (seven earned) over four-plus innings. The Red Sox knocked him out during a five-run fifth inning.
But that cushion was not as safe as it seemed after Gabbard gave up four runs with two outs.
Just when it seemed the Red Sox had opened it back up again on Pena's three-run shot to left in the top of the seventh, the Indians roared back with four in the bottom of the seventh.
All the runs were unearned because of a throwing error by Julio Lugo to start the inning. The big hit came from Ryan Garko, who unloaded for a three-run homer off Tavarez. But Ramirez offset that with his second blast over the wall in center.
The night was a far cry from the events of the previous two days, when the teams traded 1-0 victories.
"Certainly enjoyed our offensive output, not so much theirs," Francona said. "Neither team was easy to keep down. They're pretty relentless, even when they're down. We know they can be like that. I thought we did a good job. So often you score early, get in the middle and you don't score, and they're coming back and you have to hang on. We did a good job of answering. We had to."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.