If he's considered the fifth starter on a team that took a 4 1/2-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees and won its seventh straight game last night, Wade Miller's performance could be considered satisfactory, if not respectable, in allowing five runs in six innings in the Red Sox' 8-5 win over the Kansas City Royals.
However, if you're looking for a little more out of Miller, who went 10 days between starts because of shoulder tendinitis, he certainly didn't knock your Sox off.
The righthander, who has a history of shoulder problems, surrendered two home runs, threw a wild pitch, and walked three on a night when he was bailed out by another strong offensive performance by the Sox' lineup, which got a three-run homer from Manny Ramirez, before the left fielder exited the game after a second-inning collision with shortstop Edgar Renteria.
Ramirez's injuries, which included contusions on the right side of his face and chest, sore ribs, and being poked in the eye, were not considered serious. He was listed as day to day by the Sox' medical staff. Ramirez, who had his eye examined at Massachusetts General Hospital, could miss this afternoon's series finale.
Renteria remained in the game until being pinch hit for by Doug Mirabelli in the seventh inning. After the game, manager Terry Francona indicated that Renteria's ribs were sore but nothing was broken, and there's a possibility he will play this afternoon.
Miller, who evened his record at 4-4 while his ERA climbed from 4.57 to 4.78, hadn't pitched since a 2-0 win over the Chicago White Sox July 23, when went seven innings, allowing five hits. But he experienced tightness and soreness after that start and needed some extra rest before pitching last night.
The righthander's fastball was erratic early, as he surrendered a two-run homer to Emil Brown on an 88-mile-per-hour pitch in the second inning, though in the fifth and sixth innings he was popping 92-m.p.h. heaters. Miller threw 105 pitches and was done after surrendering a leadoff double to catcher John Buck in the seventh.
Mike Myers, Chad Bradford, and Mike Timlin preceded Curt Schilling, who easily protected the three-run lead for his seventh save.
''The shoulder was fine. I didn't have any problems," said Miller. ''I warmed up pretty good. Probably the best I've warmed up all year. I took advantage of the two [extra] days off, so it was something that I talked over with the trainers and they thought it was a good idea."
While Miller might not get many style points, he gets points for guts from Francona and his teammates.
''The one thing he really does, and you expect this from everybody, but he really competes," said Francona. ''He doesn't give in and he finds a way to kind of find himself on some nights when it doesn't look like maybe it's all there."
Johnny Damon echoed those sentiments. ''He fights for everything out there," said Damon. ''We know as a team when we go out there when Wade is pitching, he's giving it everything he's got. That's all we can ask for."
Ahead, 3-0, after Ramirez's 30th homer -- and RBIs 98, 99, and 100 -- Miller, who had a 1-2-3 first inning, walked Matt Stairs to lead off the second. After uncorking a pitch to the backstop with Brown at the plate, Miller threw a fat fastball over the plate and Brown hammered it over the left-center-field wall, making it 3-2.
Miller then surrendered a pair of runs in the fourth. Mike Sweeney homered to left to start the inning and Brown tripled to deep right and scored on Angel Berroa's infield single to second base.
Down, 4-3, the Sox rallied in the bottom of the inning. Kevin Millar doubled off the Wall in left, advanced to third on Bill Mueller's grounder to the right side, and scored on Tony Graffanino's infield single. Jose Cruz Jr., batting ninth, got his first hit in a Red Sox uniform, and the 1,000th of his career, with a soft single to right to continue the inning. Damon's single to right loaded the bases, and also put an end to Snyder's poor outing.
Shawn Camp came on in relief and immediately allowed the go-ahead run, a sacrifice fly to center by Renteria, making it 5-4.
The deeper the Sox got into the Royals' bullpen, the worse it seemed to get for the visiting team. In the fifth, Jason Varitek extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single to center. He stole second after there were two outs. And then Royals continued to be their own worst enemy when Berroa made his second error, bobbling Graffanino's routine grounder and allowing the sixth Sox run to score.
After Cruz stroked his second single of the game to right, the Royals made yet another pitching change. On came lefthander Andrew Sisco. With Damon up, Sisco threw a wild pitch, scoring Graffanino, who beat a throw back to the plate by Buck.