CLEVELAND -- A century ago last night, Boston ace Cy Young pitched the first perfect game of the modern era and barked at Philadelphia's Rude Waddell, the final batter he faced, "How do you like that, you hayseed?" Waddell irked Young by showboating after Philly blanked Boston four days earlier.
The Sox last night marked the 100th anniversary of Young's gem -- and postgame diss -- by avenging a bunch of slights, most of them self-inflicted. Nothing rankled the Sox more than a five-game losing streak that cost them sole possession of first place in the American League East. But there also were some individual issues, such as David Ortiz batting .125 (3 for 24) since late April and Bill Mueller committing two errors he considered the cause of an ugly loss the night before.
So it was that Ortiz and Mueller, no hayseeds, played the roles of avengers in chief as they unshackled the Sox from their winless May by powering them past the Indians, 9-5, before 17,370 at Jacobs Field.
"We got a much-needed win," manager Terry Francona said. "I think that's an understatement."
Ortiz, responding to public relations director Glenn Geffner's pregame prophesy that the Dominican basher would go deep twice, did just that, slugging a solo shot and a three-run blast to start the recovery. And Mueller, snapping a 5-5 deadlock in the the sixth inning, muscled a three-run homer to send the Sox toward their sorely needed victory. They added a run in the ninth when Manny Ramirez doubled and scored on Jason Varitek's single.
"I just figured out today that we only have played 27 games," Ortiz said. "Why do we have to panic? Sometimes we worry more than we need to."
No one beats himself up more than Mueller, who made a point of waiting stoically for reporters to face him when he believed he threw a game away the night before.
"He takes his outs very hard and he takes a bad play very hard," Johnny Damon said. "He expects to be awesome and tonight he was."
Just don't expect to hear it from Mueller. He has gone 4 for 7 since Francona moved him from second to eighth in the order to try to relieve the pressure of a 1-for-21 slump. He capped it by slugging a slider from Dave Riske for the game-breaking homer.
"I was very fortunate the ball carried," Mueller said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can every night, period. That's what everybody in here is trying to do. We're trying to be perfect every night."
So was Sox starter Byung Hyun Kim. But a hundred years after his predecessor's masterpiece, Kim was no Cy Young. Just six days after he threw five scoreless innings against the Devil Rays in his season debut, Kim failed to pitch a scoreless inning before he was ushered away with one out in the fourth. The Indians tagged him for all five runs (four earned) on six hits, a walk, and a hit batsman before the Sox pen restored order.
"He was just off," Varitek, the catcher, said. "He would try to go in and the ball ended up away. He would try to go away and the ball would end up in. I think he ended up with the feeling that his fastball was doing the opposite of what he was trying to do."
Kim viewed it differently. He said his problem was not so much mislocating his pitches but failing to keep the Indians off balance. The Indians entered the game a combined 0 for 13 against Kim.
"I don't think it was location," he said through interpreter Chang Lee. "I think it was timing. I wasn't able to take some [velocity] off and put some on. I think that's why they were able to time me pretty well. I wasn't able to control the speed too well."
The victory gave the Sox a chance to escape Cleveland with a split of the four-game series when Pedro Martinez squares off against C.C. Sabathia tonight in a showdown of each team's aces. Francona's crew, which finished April with a six-game winning streak, won for the first time on a seven-game road trip that started Saturday in Texas.
"I think this club knows we're going to perform," Mueller said. "It's just a matter of putting it together. Tonight was hopefully the start of what we're capable of doing."
With Kim's lapse, the Sox pen seized another chance to step up. Though Mark Malaska allowed the only runner he inherited in the fourth inning from Kim to score, he helped four bullpen mates -- Bronson Arroyo, Alan Embree, Scott Williamson, and Keith Foulke -- muzzle the Indians the rest of the way. In pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings, the Sox pen improved its ERA to 2.17, the best in the majors.
Arroyo, who pitched the fifth and sixth innings, picked up the win, improving to 1-1. The victory was his first since Aug. 29, 2002, with the Pirates against the Braves. It came in Arroyo's first appearance this season as a regular member of the bullpen.
"We were at a point where the game could have gone either way," Francona said, "and he really settled it down for us."
But he needed Mueller and Ortiz to make the win possible. For Ortiz, who often takes personal futility as hard as Mueller, it helps sometimes to take the long view.
"We're going to face bumps in the road," Ortiz said. "Everything is not going to be flowers and beautiful things. Sometimes you go 0 for 5, 0 for 10, 0 for 20, but if you have a good approach and stay positive, good things can happen."