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Nixon receives room to move

He has no trouble with fans in stands

Gary Sheffield wasn't in Trot Nixon's mind as he raced toward the fence just beyond Pesky's Pole, tracking an Alex Rios flyball bound for Row 1 of the box seats.

But Nixon was well aware that there were going to be people where he had to go in the seventh inning yesterday.

"I was huffing and puffing," said Nixon, who reached over the wall toward the seats and came up with Rios's fly, which would have been a two-run homer and would have turned an 11-5 game into an 11-7 game. "I'm not exactly fleet of foot. They probably heard me coming."

That lighthearted response aside, Nixon did tip his cap to the fans for giving him room to make the play.

"I just nodded to them," Nixon said. "They probably didn't know what it meant. I acknowledged them for the fact that I wasn't battling them.

"You don't want to bump into anybody, especially as expensive as the beers are."

Nixon also went 2 for 4 with a sacrifice fly and two RBIs yesterday. He's hitting .389 (7 for 18) on this homestand with a home run, two doubles, five RBIs, six runs scored, and six walks.

Bell bottoming out
Including two strikeouts yesterday (one swinging, one looking), Mark Bellhorn has 20 in 44 at-bats over 13 games. Projected over 162 games, that's 249 whiffs. Last season the Sox second baseman fanned 177 times, a Boston record and most in the American League. However, consider for a moment the dynamic of Bellhorn's new lineup spot.

Last season 398 of his 523 at-bats came in the second spot in the order. This season he's hitting ninth. Last season the second spot in the Sox lineup came up 781 times, while the ninth spot came up 653 times. Bellhorn, therefore, stands to lose 100-plus plate appearances. So, even if Bellhorn matches his 2004 strikeout total this season he'd actually be whiffing quite a bit more than in '04.

"I know the strikeouts are there," manager Terry Francona said. "But he's got an uncanny ability to pull this off. The way he goes about it is a little bit unique. He walked 88 times [last season]. I love that.

"I know everyone talks about his strikeouts. I'm afraid if we do, he'll try to put the ball in play [all the time]. You take the good with the bad and hope the good outweighs the bad. And you have to live with it."

Having his say
Francona had three discussions with the umpires yesterday, winning one. In the second he argued that Russ Adams's foul tip on a 2-and-2 pitch was caught by Jason Varitek and was an out. He lost that one, and rightfully so.

Then, he unsuccessfully argued in the third that Varitek had been hit on the back foot. Varitek ran to first base but was called back by plate umpire Marty Foster. Then, in the sixth, Francona convinced the umpires to get together to discuss what third base umpire Bob Davidson initially ruled a double by Manny Ramirez. It was changed to a home run.

"He said he saw it, but he said he would get help, which I appreciated," Francona said. "I know what I saw. We are in this ballpark a lot more than those umpires. I didn't think the ball could do what it did [bounce up and back onto the field] unless it went out."

But Francona was disappointed that Foster didn't seek another umpire's counsel when it appeared Varitek had been hit by a pitch.

"He wouldn't ask for help," Francona said. "I said, `Just ask.' He wouldn't do it. And Davidson was coming in. I'm not really sure why he wouldn't. He just said it didn't hit [Varitek]."

Ramirez's two home runs yesterday gave him 41 career multi-homer games (39 two-homer games, two three-homer games). Ramirez ranks fifth in career multi-homer games among active players, trailing only Barry Bonds (68), Sammy Sosa (66), Ken Griffey (50), and Juan Gonzalez (46). Ramirez also is just six home runs shy of becoming the 39th player to hit 400 . . . Ramirez's tape-measure blast brought to mind that the Sox don't announce homer distances any longer. The reason: The Sox' only home run measuring device was a piece of paper with distances and formulas based upon the height of the screen that was removed in favor of the Monster seats following the 2002 season . . . Bill Mueller reached base four times in four plate appearances. He singled in the second, was walked intentionally in the third, was hit by a pitch in the fifth, and doubled in the seventh . . . Jays cleanup hitter Corey Koskie struck out three times and grounded into a double play in five plate appearances . . . The Sox pitching staff's span of hitless innings ended at eight. Tim Wakefield, Matt Mantei, Alan Embree, and Keith Foulke no-hit the Devil Rays over the final 7 1/3 innings Sunday, and Schilling retired the first two Jays yesterday before Shea Hillenbrand singled . . . Schilling struck out 10, giving him 91 career games with 10 or more strikeouts . . . Wade Miller surrendered only a leadoff home run as he pitched five innings in a rehab start for Single A Wilmington last night. Miller allowed six hits, struck out six, and walked none. He threw 67 pitches, 47 for strikes . . . The Sox' Double A affiliate is undefeated no more. The Portland Sea Dogs lost to the visiting Binghamton Mets, 3-1, last night at Hadlock Field, falling to 10-1. Jonathan Papelbon (2-1) allowed the three runs in his 5 2/3 innings . . . Hartford Whalers loyalists must be smiling these days when they come out to Fenway. "Brass Bonanza," the snappy anthem that used to play as the Whale took to the ice at the Civic Center, has joined the rotation of songs being pumped out of the Fenway sound system.

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