The high drama, nail-biting, and intensity of the previous series were gone.
The Red Sox began the rest of the 2005 season last night by dismantling the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 10-0, at Fenway Park.
No more "Yankees [expletive]" chants. No mock cheers for Mariano Rivera. Just some residue from the eighth-inning encounter Thursday night between Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield and a fan in the right-field corner.
This was your typical game between the haves and have-nots. And for the first time this season, David Wells had it. The 41-year-old lefthander entered the game 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA, but facing the only team in the American League East he's never played for, Wells hit his spots, then watched as his offense pulverized Hideo Nomo, who allowed eight runs in two-plus innings, allowing five hits and walking five.
"Yeah, it takes a lot off your shoulders," Wells said. "After the first two starts, it wasn't to my standards or anything close to my capabilities."
The Sox erupted for seven runs in the second, their highest-scoring inning of the young season, highlighted by Mark Bellhorn's two-run double to center, his first two RBIs of the year, a bases-loaded walk by Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz's grand slam.
"Hideo was trying to get us to chase bad pitches, but in that situation, you have to stay on the ball longer and hit your pitch. I got an inside fastball," said Ortiz of his third career grand slam, which also broke an 0-for-14 skid.
Wells said he didn't alter his approach after the Ortiz homer provided a 7-0 lead, feeling "you have to follow a big inning like that with a 1-2-3, try to put up a goose egg. You try to stay focused, and that's what I did."
Wells, who threw 96 pitches, said he felt butterflies before the game, given that it was his first Fenway start as a Red Sox. He feared another poor outing would get him off on the wrong foot in Boston.
"You go out there and try to give the fans something to cheer about. If I had a bad performance, I probably would have gotten booed. And rightfully so, because I haven't pitched well."
Wells wasn't flawless. He allowed a two-out double to Jorge Cantu in the first, a pair of singles in the second, a leadoff single to Cantu in the fourth, a two-out single to Alex Gonzalez in the fifth, and a leadoff double for Julio Lugo in the sixth. Wells was able to work his way out of each of those jams, with his only 1-2-3 inning coming in the third. While Edgar Renteria proved to be one of the offensive stars in Thursday's 8-5 win over the Yankees, with a home run and a tiebreaking double, he provided some offense and defense last night. He made two spectacular plays at shortstop, when he leaped over a takeout slide at second by Travis Lee to convert an inning-ending double play in the second, and when he stretched to snag Carl Crawford's liner in the third. Apparently Boston's new shortstop is beginning to feel at home.
The Sox' second-inning barrage began with a walk to Kevin Millar. Entering the game, Sox hitters thought the best way to get to Nomo was to make him throw all of his pitches. Johnny Damon had worked a leadoff walk in the first and Millar started the second inning the same way.
After Renteria followed with a single to left, Nomo got Jason Varitek to foul out to catcher Toby Hall. That was followed by a Bill Mueller walk and Bellhorn's double between outfielders Eduardo Perez and Crawford. Bellhorn stroked a 2-and-2 pitch that hung over the middle of the plate. After Damon made the second out with a grounder to third, Nomo walked Trot Nixon, and forced home the third run by walking Ramirez with the bases loaded.
Ortiz then connected, sending a line shot inside Pesky's Pole, as the Sox broke the game open. "He was all over the place," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said of Nomo. "Very little command. Threw a lot of pitches, behind on the count, walked a lot of hitters, and against a good team like Boston you're not going to have success that way. Location wasn't very good at all."The Sox added a run in the third when Renteria tripled to left field, then scored on a throwing error by Hall, who had tried to block an errant Nomo offering and then threw wildly in an attempt to cut down Renteria, who broke for the plate. Meanwhile, Wells just needed to make sure there were no disasters. He went seven innings, walked none, and lowered his ERA to 5.09 en route to his 213th career win.
Wells, who allowed six hits, improved to 9-1 with a 2.52 ERA against the Devil Rays.
By the bottom of the seventh, the Sox had begun to replace their starters, as if it were a spring training game. David McCarty, pinch hitting for Damon, stroked a two-run single in the seventh as the Sox reached double figures in runs for the first time in 2005.
Matt Mantei came on to pitch the eighth in relief of Wells, and John Halama finished it off in the ninth.
But the night was all about getting Wells, the team's No. 2 starter, back on track. "I'm thrilled," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Coming to a new ball club, a new city, the quicker these fans become endeared to him, the better. When that gate opens and he comes in, I want these people screaming for him, not at him. He's been doing this a long time and he'll be OK, but still it's good."