Sox find a way in ninth
Run completes rally for rare Jacobs sweep
CLEVELAND -- Keith Foulke won (he's 5-3). Alan Embree inherited a bases-loaded situation in the sixth inning and escaped unscored upon (he fanned a batter looking, then induced a double play, all in six pitches). Underused and unhappy outfielder Jay Payton scored the deciding run in the ninth inning (he lined a leadoff double to the wall, advanced with some intelligent base running, and scored on an Edgar Renteria double). Wade Miller allowed only one earned run over five-plus innings and came away saying, ''That's the best I've felt this year."
The consensus: Just about each member of the Red Sox who needed a reason to feel good about himself today has just that. And, they can take today off -- they'll spend it in Philadelphia -- basking in what is the most promising swatch of games the Sox have played in 2005.
With last night's 5-4 decision -- despite deficits of 1-0 (after two innings), 2-1 (after six innings), and 4-2 (after seven innings) -- the Sox reeled off their ninth win in 10 games and swept the Indians, who'd won nine in a row before Boston stormed into town.
The Sox outscored the Indians, 24-15, outhit them, 36-33, and outhomered them, 8-2, in sweeping Cleveland at Jacobs Field for the first time since May 28-30, 1999. To think, the same team that limped out of Wrigley Field June 12 at 33-29 is now 41-30, a mere one game behind the Orioles for the division lead.
''It feels like we've played with a greater sense of urgency," said Payton, who was hitless in four at-bats before shooting a Bob Wickman pitch to the wall in right-center to begin the ninth. ''It seemed like we coasted a little the first couple months."
Sifting through all that had played out in 3 hours 28 minutes, Sox manager Terry Francona came to the night's simplest yet most accurate conclusion: ''We did a lot of things to win that game. That's a losable game."
It looked losable in the sixth, when Miller found himself in a severe bind, partly his doing, partly -- in his mind, at least -- that of plate umpire Larry Vanover. Miller began the inning by walking Travis Hafner and Victor Martínez, the latter on a full-count pitch. Ben Broussard then singled, and Casey Blake worked Miller to 2 and 2.
The following pitch was ruled a ball -- ''It was right there," Miller said -- and Blake singled on the 3-and-2 pitch, plating Hafner and giving the Indians a 2-1 lead. Francona motioned for Embree, and, while walking to the mound, Vanover came out to explain the two close calls.
Francona shooed him away.
''I just said, 'Not now,' " Francona said. ''Let us make a pitching change. I didn't want anything to escalate."
Miller, meanwhile, walked off the mound infuriated, the bases loaded on his watch.
''I was [ticked]," Miller said. ''That's the most I've ever talked to an umpire in my entire career. I said something after the walk to Martínez. After the base hit by Blake I had a few more words."
Embree, who pitched for the fourth time in five days, and who gave up a 434-foot homer here Monday night, was greeted by a pinch hitter, José Hernández. He saw three pitches, all strikes, and, evidently, was just looking, thank you. He sat down after Embree painted the outer corner with a fastball at 89 miles per hour.
Jhonny Peralta, the No. 9 hitter, followed and bounced to Renteria, who began an inning-ending double play. The most exhilarating inning of Embree's season?
''Yeah, it was, because the game was on the line," he said. ''If I gave up a hit there it would have erased all the good I was doing."
No one was more pumped in the Sox dugout than Miller.
''He did a great job of stopping the bleeding," Miller said of Embree. ''That's the best I've felt this year. My mechanics are finally hitting the spot I want. And to have a game like that [by me] turn out like that, because I was pleased in my ending, I'm pretty happy."
Miller was tagged with only one run -- the other was unearned. He touched 93 miles per hour, gave up only six hits, and pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the second with consecutive strikeouts looking.
''If I can keep that up," he said, ''I think I'm going to do really well."
Miller left trailing, 2-1, as Renteria had supplied the only run, a third-inning homer, his sixth. But John Olerud, starting at first base, homered off lefthander Cliff Lee to lead off the next inning, sending a ball 406 feet to dead center with that effortless swing.
''He has a beautiful swing," Francona said. ''I know that's a gift, but he works at it, he has it refined. That bat never slowed down."
Cleveland plated two in the seventh, when Embree was hit for consecutive one-out singles and Mike Timlin, who followed Embree, allowed both runners to score, one on a ground out, another on an RBI single by Martínez. On the season, 8 of 13 inherited runners have now scored against Timlin.
But, down 4-2, the Renteria/Olerud show continued. Olerud, against lefthander Arthur Rhodes, singled in a run with two outs in the eighth. Bill Mueller, also off Rhodes, singled in the tying run on a full-count, two-out, 94-m.p.h. fastball away. And in the ninth, after Payton reached to lead off the inning, Renteria laced a double to the wall in left-center, sore wrist and all.
Foulke, who'd labored in the eighth, went 1-2-3 in the ninth on just eight pitches.