08/02/07 5:58 PM ET
Mirabelli helps lead Sox over Orioles
Catcher records three hits as Boston takes series finale
By Alex McPhillips / MLB.com
With the game tied in the sixth inning against the Orioles on Thursday, Mirabelli stood on third base. The bases were loaded, and David Ortiz lofted a high fly ball to the warning track.
With one out, Mirabelli -- who owed his lineup spot to an uncommon expertise catching knuckleballer Tim Wakefield -- forgot to tag up. Baltimore right fielder Nick Markakis caught the ball, then fired to cut-off man Miguel Tejada, who conceded the run by aligning himself with third base.
To Tejada's surprise, Mirabelli still had not scored. Far from it -- he had to return to third, then bounce back toward home. Tejada easily nabbed him at the plate. It was "embarrassing," Mirabelli said.
"I think we're probably one of the few teams where if something like that happens, you don't see a lot of tension in the dugout," said manager Terry Francona after the Red Sox's 7-4 victory.
Mirabelli heard boos when he came to bat in the seventh. With one easy swing, he silenced them, stroking a line drive to center field for Boston's deciding fourth run. Altogether, he went 3-for-3 with a walk and a fourth-inning home run over the Green Monster. It was his first three-hit game since Aug. 25, 2004.
"It makes you feel better," said Mirabelli, "but it doesn't erase the fact that ... I could've easily cost Wakefield a win -- which is my main goal when I get out there. It's hard to face the teammates, it's hard to face everybody."
For six years, with the exception of a brief tour in San Diego, Mirabelli has been counted on to catch Wakefield's signature pitch, the knuckler. He did a sterling job again on Thursday, allowing zero passed balls in a game that Wakefield commanded for seven innings, allowing three runs.
For Wakefield, who turned 41 on Thursday, it was the 150th win of his Red Sox career and the 13th of his season, tying him for most in the American League.
"It's just a number," said Wakefield. "I don't feel 41. Forty, maybe."
After the game, Mirabelli was still shaking the feeling that he could have cost his Wakefield the win.
"We live and die together out there as a battery," Mirabelli said. "And that's why, you now, after the base-running mistake, it crushes you."
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
|With his victory over the Orioles on Thursday afternoon, Tim Wakefield became the third pitcher in franchise history to win at least 150 games with the club:|
|Wakefield has earned a decision in each of his 22 starts this season. He is just the sixth pitcher since 1980 to get a decision in his first 22 starts to begin a season.|
Eric Hinske said there were no hard feelings among the teammates, not least because Mirabelli found a way to key victory with his bat.
"Once we were winning the game, you could kind of rip on him a little bit, just to try to break the ice," Hinske said. "But, you know, everybody makes mistakes. He's our teammate, and it's all right. I'm sure I'll be there one of these days."
The Red Sox got on the board against Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie in the third, when Manny Ramirez scorched a drive over the head of Jay Payton in left, scoring Ortiz.
They added two more in the fourth with consecutive blasts on back-to-back pitches to Hinske and Mirabelli, a little-celebrated power duo. It was the sixth time the Red Sox had gone back-to-back in an inning this season.
"It's good when we can rest the starters and the guys that come in off the bench produce," Hinske said.
Alex Cora started the game in place of shortstop Julio Lugo, who received a routine day of rest. J.D. Drew, who missed most of the team's series with the Orioles while tending to his ailing son, Jack David, relieved Hinske as a pinch-runner in the seventh.
Baltimore tied the game with three runs in the fifth, but it managed just one more run. Eric Gagne entered in the ninth to a pulse-pounding ovation, striking out the first two batters he faced.
But a dropped two-out popup in no-man's land between third base and left field put a runner on second. The Orioles scored on a single, but ultimately surrendered to Gagne's low-90s heater and knee-buckling repertoire of off-speed stuff.
"How about that?" Gagne said after the game, wearing a grateful smile. "I have a 9.00 ERA as a Red Sox, [and] I get a standing 'O.' That's pretty good. It tells you a lot about the fans."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.