Notes: Teammates in awe of Manny
Slugger's walk-off jack makes Sox even more dangerous
ANAHEIM -- In the short term, Manny Ramirez delivered the Red Sox an instant postseason victory with one swing by hitting a ball so far that his teammates were literally awed.
But not to be lost in the instant gratification of the moment is the long-term ramifications.
Ramirez had been sidelined by a strained left oblique for 24 games down the stretch. He returned to the lineup for the final six regular-season games. However, not until the Game 2 walk-off blast that sunk the Angels had Ramirez driven the ball with much authority.
With Ramirez back in full swing, the Red Sox suddenly become a far more dangerous team. And there probably won't be many more nights that David Ortiz gets walked four times, as he did Friday night.
"I think when Manny is going good and has full confidence and is swinging the bat good, I think they're going to have to pitch to David," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "Manny Ramirez is Manny Ramirez. Manny has a longer track record than David Ortiz. He's MVP material almost every year and a guy that is going to be a Hall of Famer."
Boston manager Terry Francona had said repeatedly in recent days that Ramirez having just a few days to refine his swing before the postseason "wasn't perfect."
Nobody could predict exactly when things would click in for the star slugger, but Friday's swing might have provided the answer.
"We saw the way he was swinging the bat," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I can't say we knew for sure he was going to do what he did, but we knew his at-bats were good. With his God-given ability, we feel pretty confident with him in that spot. I don't think there's anyone else on our team we'd rather have hitting behind David than him."
After topping 30 homers and 100 RBIs for nine consecutive seasons, Ramirez finished 2007 with 20 homers and 88 RBIs.
In his rare postgame address following Game 2, Ramirez indicated that this has not been the easiest season for him.
"Just my timing all year round hasn't been right," said Ramirez. "But man, like I said, even when I'm not right, I get hits. So you know, I just go to battle and keep preparing the way I'm preparing. ... I'm always working hard and that's it. That's me, man. Even when you don't feel good and you get hits, like I said, you're a bad man."
Pedroia bounces back fine: The Red Sox had a minor scare in the second inning on Friday, when Dustin Pedroia tweaked his left shoulder trying to take a hit away from Kendry Morales. But Pedroia stayed in the game and had no ill effects a day later.
"He's fine," said Francona. "Actually, we expected him to be a little more tender than he was."
Pedroia took bating practice on Saturday.
Dice-K searching for split: Daisuke Matsuzaka held court with the Japanese media on Saturday to reflect on his disappointing start in Game 2.
The most interesting thing the right-hander said was that he didn't have a feel for his splitter, which was so effective in his final regular-season start against the Twins.
"When I was throwing my splitter [Friday night], I was just thinking, 'Please break down,'" Matsuzaka said.
If the Red Sox lose Game 3, Matsuzaka will not hang around for Game 4. Instead, he will fly back to Boston for a potential start in Game 5 at Fenway on Wednesday.
Okajima back in groove: Lefty setup man Hideki Okajima appears to have benefited from the rest the Red Sox game him late in the season. Okajima looked to be in top form during his 1 1/3 perfect innings that included two strikeouts.
"There is some deception there and there's some real good command when he's right," said Francona.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.