Sox enjoy a lumber party
DENVER -- The Red Sox laughed again. Thanks to a second straight sensational start from Derek Lowe and an offensive explosion reminiscent of their glory days last year as a modern-day Murderers' Row, the Sox yesterday shared a grin as big as the Rockies as they dashed the despair of two straight miserable losses.
Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez provided the comedy after the Sox circled the bases so often that Kevin Millar tripped over third base in the eighth inning and belly-flopped onto the rain-soaked turf.
"Hey, Millar, let me show you how to run the bases!" Martinez shouted across the clubhouse afterward as he emerged naked from the shower.
Ramirez, clad only in a towel, joined in the slapstick by tossing a copy of Sports Illustrated's baseball preview across the carpet to serve as a base. At that, Martinez, still naked, comically demonstrated the fine art of rounding a base without losing one's balance, drawing chuckles from one corner of the clubhouse to the other.
Millar could do little more than laugh. But that's what the Sox needed most, a great big smile as they prepared to board a jet for San Francisco after their 11-0 laugher over the Rockies before 40,088 at Coors Field. The victory marked only the second time in 400 games over five years that the Rockies were blanked at hitter-happy Coors.
"Everything went real well," said Sox manager Terry Francona, free of the grim disposition that gripped him the night before.
Things went so well that the long-struggling Lowe stopped a Sox losing streak for the first time this season. Better yet, Lowe gave every indication he has regained his excellence as he extended his run of scoreless innings to 14 in dominating the Rockies.
"He's been showing us the D-Lowe that everybody expects from him," said David Ortiz, who collected a career-high five RBIs with a two-run homer, a two-run double, and a run-scoring single in pacing the 14-hit attack. "He's picking it up at the right time. That's exactly what we needed right now."
Lowe, who improved to 6-5 and lowered his ERA to 5.25, scattered four singles and four walks over seven innings. The sinkerballer, who held the Rockies hitless all five times they batted with runners in scoring position, recorded 17 of his 21 outs on grounders and three others on strikeouts. He appeared even sharper than he did in holding the Dodgers scoreless for seven innings last Friday at Fenway Park.
"This is not an easy ballpark to do what he did," Francona said. "He did what he has to do to be very effective."
To Lowe, who has worked with sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, the key to success was as much mental as physical. Even though pitchers are "supposed to fail" at Coors, Lowe said, he entered the game with a positive outlook and maintained it.
"When you have that frame of mind, it gives you a better chance," he said. "To know you need to pitch a good game and actually do it is very gratifying."
Lowe was smart enough to know breaking balls lose much of their effectiveness in the thin air at Coors, as Curt Schilling was reminded the night before. So he threw only five breaking balls among his 94 pitches, and in the process gained even greater confidence in his signature sinker.
"He's better in control of himself," said catcher Jason Varitek. "It all started with him being in the right frame of mind. In the last game, he finally had something positive and he was able to repeat it."
Sox hitters also needed to do something positive after they stranded 24 runners and went 0 for 7 with the bases loaded over the previous two losses. And Pokey Reese got them started when he singled home two runs with the bases loaded in the second inning. Reese said he was aware of the team's woeful average with the bases loaded (.188 entering the game) as he stepped in against Colorado starter Aaron Cook.
"But you don't think about it when you're in the batter's box," he said. "I was just looking to drive the ball and when he got behind, 2 and 0, I was looking dead red. I got a fastball and was able to hit it up the middle."
Ortiz went to work in the fifth inning, when he singled home Johnny Damon, who had walked leading off. Ortiz followed Mark Bellhorn's leadoff walk in the seventh with his 14th homer, and he cracked his two-run double after Bellhorn walked in the eighth.
Ortiz sensed something positive when the Sox rallied for two runs in the ninth inning in the 7-6 loss the night before.
"When I saw the little rally we had going, even though we lost the game, I was talking to the guys and I told them, `Hey, I feel like things are going to change around here because I haven't seen that in a long time,' " he said.
Change they did, at least for a day. David McCarty contributed in the eighth with a sacrifice fly and Bellhorn completed the rout with a two-run double in the ninth.
"Today you saw what we are capable of doing," Damon said, "and what we did so many times last year."
In addition to Ortiz, Nomar Garciaparra finished with three hits, including a triple. Damon, Reese, and Trot Nixon each had two hits, and the Sox struck for six more doubles, increasing their league lead to 153.
Everything went so well that Francona was able to give righthander Scott Williamson an inning of quasi-rehab work in the eighth as he comes back from elbow tendinitis and use Rule V lefty Lenny DiNardo in the ninth.
Then they could smile all the way to San Francisco.