Sox keep busy with a victory
Lineup changes and roster moves all work out well
While Tony Graffanino was the story of the game, with a three-run homer that propelled the Red Sox to an 11-6 victory over the Texas Rangers last night, there was so much more that went into this win.
It was things like Jeremi Gonzalez inducing an inning-ending double play in the fifth in relief of the embattled Wade Miller to prevent what might have been a big inning by the Rangers, and Graffanino running the bases like Maury Wills.
It was a day on which Keith Foulke threw off a mound in the bullpen, a significant step in his rehabilitation from knee surgery, and on which Terry Francona scrambled to make roster moves and lineup changes when Bill Mueller had back spasms in batting practice.
Mueller's woes prompted the summoning of Kevin Youkilis from Pawtucket to protect the Sox at third, and that meant another roster move, Jose Cruz Jr. being designated for assignment.
Francona thus had to insert Edgar Renteria into the lineup on a night when the manager was hoping to give the shortstop a day off. He had to move Alex Cora from short to third because he didn't think Youkilis would make it from Pawtucket in time. (He drove from Pawtucket, in uniform, and arrived by 6:30).
And all of this was happening on the first day of a homestand after the Sox lost two out of three to the Twins.
''It was an interesting day," Francona said. ''With Gabe [Kapler] and [Kevin] Millar, we have [outfield] options. It's funny because I think Cruz was coming in [to the manager's office] looking for a pep talk and not realizing he's moving on somewhere."
It was a game that Graffanino might want to have on tape so he can sit back on a comfy sofa and watch it on some rainy night 10 years from now.
He went 3 for 3 with four RBIs and energized the Sox on the basepaths, scoring on a wild pitch that didn't get very far away from catcher Rod Barajas in the fourth and hustled to score from second on an infield single by Johnny Damon in the seventh.
Graffanino, the No. 8 hitter, was even walked intentionally in that seventh inning, when the Sox padded the 8-5 lead he had given them with his homer in the fifth with three more runs.
Miller lasted only 4 1/3 innings, as his pitch count reached 104.
''From the first batter of the game, it was a battle for him," Francona said. ''If you don't command and keep the ball out of the center of the plate and you walk people, they're going to make it a long night, like they did. The command just wasn't there."
Francona's hook was timely, as Gonzalez came on with two on and one out in the fifth and got Dave Dellucci to hit into a double play, keeping the game tied, 5-5.
Gonzalez, who got the win, pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing only two hits and giving the Sox offense the opportunity to pull away.
''That was a big pickup for us right there," Miller said. ''For Jeremi to come up with a big double play there and then pitch two innings like he did gave us a chance to come back."
''It's not the way you draw it up," said Francona. ''There's no panic that sets in. We're a good offensive club. We stayed the course. And Jeremi, at a time in the game when we didn't need a lot of excitement, he quieted it down and let us do our stuff."
The Sox put it away in the three-run seventh, which Jason Varitek started by reaching on Alfonso Soriano's error. After Millar singled off the railing down the left-field line, Gabe Kapler knocked into a double play. Graffanino was then walked intentionally and stole second. Cora walked to load the bases before Damon beat out a single that was fielded by second baseman Soriano in short right field. Graffanino never stopped and scored from second, making it 10-5. The final run came when Cora broke for third and Barajas threw the ball into the outfield on the steal attempt.
As ineffective as Miller was, he fared far better than Texas starter Ricardo Rodriguez, who was staked to a 3-0 lead in the first inning but lasted only 2/3 of an inning and left trailing, 4-3.
David Ortiz's 26th homer (with Edgar Renteria aboard on a single) cut it to 3-2 and seemed to rattle Rodriguez. Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek walked, and one out later Roberto Petagine singled sharply to center, knocking in Ramirez with the tying run. Graffanino followed with a one-hopper off Rodriguez's right shoulder that bounded into short right for a hit, scoring Varitek with the go-ahead run.
The Rangers tied it in the second inning when Mark Teixeira's routine grounder went between Petagine's legs for an error, scoring Gary Matthews.
Graffanino got the lead back in the fourth by scoring on the wild pitch, but Miller couldn't hold it. Barajas singled in Phil Nevin to tie it in the fifth -- before Graffanino struck again.
''It was a lot of fun," said Graffanino. ''I think it was a lot of fun for everybody. I had a good time today. I was able to run around the bases and hit some balls."
It turned out to be a good day for the Sox, a somewhat frantic day on which Francona certainly earned his money.