With the Red Sox leading, 3-1, and runners on second and third in the fifth inning, San Diego manager Bruce Bochy decided to intentionally walk Manny Ramirez, loading the bases for Nomar Garciaparra.
The shortstop, in his second game since returning from an Achilles' injury, made Bochy pay as he doubled in his first two runs of the season with a drive high off the Wall to break the game open as the Sox scored five runs in the inning en route to a 9-3 rout before 35,068 at Fenway Park.
"I was expecting it," Garciaparra said. "Manny has been on a tear. I'm just getting back into the lineup."
Defining moment for this Red Sox lineup?
"Tonight they got a chance to see how deep this lineup starts getting," said Kevin Millar, who doubled in Ramirez and Garciaparra. "And then all of a sudden it starts to become a hassle. That's the depth we bring. It's a snowball effect." The Sox remain 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East as the storied Los Angeles Dodgers come to town for a three-game series beginning tonight. Garciaparra said after the game that he will likely get the night off after playing all nine innings last night and six Wednesday night in his season debut.The Garciaparra-enhanced Sox lineup -- which supported a seven-inning, two-run performance by starter Curt Schilling -- saw the red-hot Ramirez (three hits, three RBIs) belt a two-run homer, and second baseman Pokey Reese (on his 31st birthday) had a home run among his three hits from the No. 9 spot. David Ortiz had four hits to pace the 13-hit attack. It was clear after Schilling settled in (he allowed a run in the first) that the jammed-packed house at Fenway, which gave Garciaparra another rousing ovation, would appreciate the night's work a little more than it did the 8-1 shellacking at the hands of the Padres the night before.
The Sox seemed to survive two scary moments with Garciaparra. He was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning off the side of the left knee, and in the ninth, he fielded a grounder and stepped on the second base bag awkwardly with his right ankle. But he did stay in the game until the end.
"Might as well take the focus off the other areas of my body," kidded Garciaparra about the hit by pitch. He said the awkward way he hit the bag did not hurt his Achilles', though he soaked in a whirlpool after the game.
"I actually lost the ball up the middle and it got me off my rhythm," said Garciaparra of hitting the bag. "Somebody put second base where it's not supposed to be. I'll have to talk to the groundskeeper about that."
While Red Sox Nation held its breath, it wasn't alone. Even manager Terry Francona said, "I held my breath, too. I saw it. It was kind of clumsy looking. I think he's fine. He wanted to play nine and I think he thought it was important to play nine, and I certainly asked him if he needed to come out of that game tonight, and he really didn't want to."
It was a night when all of the sarcastic undertones from Wednesday night's game seemed a distant memory. First baseman Andy Dominique, who made a costly error in the loss, sat in favor of Millar. The fans chanted "Pokey!, Pokey!" when Mark Bellhorn made an error (one of his two) Wednesday night. Reese settled in at second last night.
The only painful aspect of last night's win was watching Lenny DiNardo trying to close the game in the ninth. He loaded the bases before retiring Jay Payton on a ground out to Garciaparra for the final out.
Schilling's painful ankle has certainly become more of an issue in recent weeks. The question is, can the Sox get Schilling through the season without him having to miss time? The five-time All-Star was throwing hard in all seven innings; his fastball peaking at 95 miles per hour and consistently at 94.
"I felt good," said Schilling, who threw an economical 91 pitches. "My split came back today for the first time in two months consistently, which was big. Command-wise, I was spotty at times today. Tonight was one of those nights when there wasn't really a need for me to go back out there."
Schilling, who improved to 8-3 with a 3.03 ERA, has had to take a Marcaine shot on his painful right ankle in most of his recent starts. He said the medical staff timed it differently last night so it would last deeper into his outing, and Schilling thought the game plan worked well.
Schilling allowed the Padres a first-inning run as leadoff hitter Sean Burroughs doubled and scored on a ground out by Brian Giles. The Sox didn't get the equalizer until the third, when Reese, making his season debut as the starting second baseman, homered into the Monster seats.
Schilling was treated to more long-ball support in the fourth, when Ortiz led off with a single to right and trotted home on Ramirez's blast over the Monster, giving Schilling a two-run cushion, 3-1.
"The last couple of times I've taken the mound, I've just kind of sat back and watched them run around the bases," Schilling said. "The offense is clicking. It's fun to watch."
The Sox chased Padres starter Ismael Valdez in the fifth, after he allowed a single to Reese, a walk to Johnny Damon, and an RBI double to Kevin Youkilis, who got the nod at third base and batted second. After Brandon Puffer came on to fan Ortiz and Ramirez was walked intentionally, Fenway became electric on Garciaparra's response -- the double off the Wall.
A defining moment.