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Mirabelli's slam launches Sox

DETROIT -- John Halama arrived here Monday afternoon, banged a left at the door to the visiting clubhouse, walked to his corner locker, looked up, and in black marker on a white strip of dry erase board, saw this: "HAMALA."

"John Ham-ala," Mike Timlin announced, roaring.

A clubhouse attendant later erased the name and rewrote it with the proper spelling. Next time to town, that name will, in all likelihood, be spelled properly, because it stands to be remembered.

Halama, who made his debut start with the Sox last night after nine relief appearances, gave the team about as good an effort as could have been expected. He'd maxed out at 34 pitches in his previous appearances, was pegged for a high of 80 by his manager, and yet reached 87. He worked five innings and left ahead, gaining the win in a 5-3 Sox victory before 19,121 at Comerica Park on a 47-degree night.

"John, that's the story," said Timlin, who pitched two innings (the seventh and eighth) of scoreless relief, lowering his ERA to 1.32. "John did a great job. He came in, spot start, he's intelligent. He doesn't do anything drastic. He throws the right pitches at the right time. He knows how to pitch."

The Sox have now lost and won -- in that order -- the games started by Jeremi Gonzalez and Halama, who have joined the rotation in the absence of Curt Schilling and David Wells. Schilling and Wells this season have combined for a 3-5 record and 5.75 ERA. In starts, Gonzalez and Halama are 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA.

Gonzalez will start again Saturday at home against Seattle, while Halama is likely to go back to the bullpen if Wade Miller starts Sunday, as expected.

Doug Mirabelli gave Halama all the support he'd need with a fifth-inning grand slam off Detroit starter Mike Maroth.

"He locates his ball so well," Mirabelli said of Maroth. "He doesn't throw that hard but it looks hard because his changeup is so good."

The changeup came on a 2-and-1 count, and Mirabelli lined it over the bullpen and into the seats in left-center. The backup catcher hit the homer out of the designated hitter spot. David Ortiz, who'd started all 25 games, was rested against Maroth, who owns Ortiz (1 for 10 lifetime).

Mirabelli's two-out homer, the third grand slam of his career, avoided an incredibly frustrating inning. Each of the five batters ahead of Mirabelli got on base, but none had scored (Jason Varitek grounded into a fielder's choice).

Before Mirabelli's at-bat, the Sox had left at least one man on base in each of the previous 12 innings. When he came up, in fact, the Sox were hitting just .200 (5 for 25) in the series with runners in scoring position. But Mirabelli got the pitch he wanted and changed all that.

"That's my best pitch," Maroth told the Detroit Free Press. "I think I threw one too many in the inning."

Maroth, the former Sox draft pick (third round, 1998) traded to Detroit in 1999 for Bryce Florie, struggled with his control. He tied a career high with six walks after walking a total of four in his five previous starts. He walked two in the fifth, fatiguing himself and helping set up the big inning.

Mirabelli went into last night hitting .188 this season with just 16 at-bats, fewest of any Sox player who's spent the whole season on the roster. But he's always hit Detroit hard, and that continued. Of his 12 career hits against the Tigers, half are home runs.

"Terry [Francona] recognized I need a few more at-bats," said Mirabelli, who will start again today when Tim Wakefield pitches.

Mirabelli hit the homer in his third at-bat, after fouling out in the second inning and striking out looking in the fourth. After the grand slam he walked up to Francona and said, according to the manager, "Were you a little worried after the first two at-bats?"

It was a feel-good night, with comments like that. It was almost all good, until Keith Foulke gave up yet another homer, the fifth he's surrendered this season and fourth in eight days. Detroit's No. 7 hitter, Marcus Thames, launched a leadoff shot in the ninth, making it 5-3.

Varitek called for a pitch low and away, and instead got something over the plate and up. Way up.

"It was almost above the guy's head," Varitek said, and he wasn't exaggerating.

Foulke has allowed 11 earned runs after allowing just 20 all of last season and the same total in 2003. Foulke's ERA, which is 7.62, has been below 3.00 at the end of each season since 1998. Foulke has five months to shave that ERA, but he's dug himself quite a hole.

Presently, he needs 20 straight scoreless innings to reduce his ERA to 3.00.

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