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Decision goes to Sox

Ramírez makes Indians pay with eighth-inning blow

CLEVELAND -- After Terry Francona had watched Curt Schilling throw 133 pitches, after Eric Wedge had tapped Scott Sauerbeck to face David Ortiz to begin the seventh, only to watch Ortiz round the bases after one fateful pitch, after so many decisions had been made, none of them really mattered. Sox 5, Indians 5, into the eighth.

Kevin Youkilis singled with one out, then swiped a base (No. 1 of his career). And then Wedge, the Indians manager, was staring down the decision of the night, with Guillermo Mota on the mound and Ortiz coming up. Mota, a member of the Sox for approximately two months (acquired Thanksgiving, spun to Cleveland Jan. 27), went into last night with neither a record (0-0) nor an ERA (0.00).

Wedge called for the intentional pass, opting to face Manny Ramírez, who had two homers on the season, rather than Ortiz, whose ninth homer of April tied Ramírez's club record. ''If you're going to pick your poison," Keith Foulke said, ''you'd better have the right antidote for it."

Mota did not. He left his second pitch in a place suited for Ramírez to take one of his audacious inside-out cuts. The ball just cleared the fence in right center, sending the Sox to an 8-6 win before 18,438 at the Jake on a 42-degree night that only the Indians furball mascot could love (''I'm not going to complain, I'll take this weather all year," said Slider as he wobbled about in his stuffy costume).

The win improved the Sox to 13-7 on a long, sometimes unclean, but ultimately triumphant night of baseball. The Sox led, 2-0, fell behind, 4-2, pulled ahead, 5-4, and gave that back, to make it 5-5, before prevailing.

They created an early lead against Jake Westbrook (six walks), loading the bases in the second inning. On the season, they were just 6 for 24 with the bases loaded, and Youkilis made it 6 for 25 by striking out. But Mark Loretta, mired in a lengthy slump (11 for 64), singled to center for a 2-0 lead.

The Indians quickly tied it, in the bottom of the inning. Schilling pitched cautiously to Victor Martinez and walked him. Ben Broussard followed by turning on a 1-and-1 splitter that Schilling didn't want back, calling it ''a good one."

The Indians hung up another 2-spot in the third. Grady Sizemore tripled with one out, Jason Michaels singled him in for a 3-2 lead, and Travis Hafner, with two outs and the count 0-and-2, hit a ringing ground-rule double, elevating Cleveland's lead to 4-2.

The unclean component mentioned above? That came in the Sox' half of the third, when they sent just three batters to the plate despite the fact that the leadoff batter and third batter both singled. How? Ramírez singled, Trot Nixon flied to center, and Jason Varitek singled. With the count 3-and-2 to Mike Lowell and the runners going on the pitch, Ramírez broke too soon. The madness that ensued required a call by the official scorer to the Elias Sports Bureau to be sure he got it right.

Varitek was caught stealing 1-5-4 (pitcher to third baseman to second base), even though the Indians were attempting to cut down Ramírez when they nabbed Varitek. The second baseman then threw to the catcher covering third to nab Ramírez attempting to advance.

''That was interesting," Francona said.

But the Sox chipped away, pulling within 4-3 in the sixth on a Youkilis sacrifice fly. Ortiz then led off the seventh against Sauerbeck, the man who once called himself a ''curveball-flipping freak."

''Still am," Sauerbeck said before the game.

Ortiz presumably knew as much. He went up hacking and drove the first pitch he saw 412 feet into the stands in right. Sox 4, Indians 4. Ramírez then walked, advanced to second on Varitek's second hit of the night, and scored on Lowell's third single for a 5-4 lead.

Ramírez jarred the ball loose on the play, surprising Martinez, who was sure he'd tagged him. ''He taketh away," Francona said of Ramírez, ''but he giveth more."

That positioned Schilling for the win. He'd thrown 109 pitches through six innings, and the bullpen was rested, with no game Monday. But he came back out. Casey Blake, the No. 9 hitter, doubled on Schilling's 111th pitch. Sizemore laced Schilling's 117th to left center, tying the game at 5-5. After a lengthy battle with Michaels, the at-bat stretched to 10 pitches, the runner took off, and Michaels lined one up the box. Schilling snagged it and doubled Sizemore off.

Nice play?

''To say yes would be to acknowledge that I saw it before I caught it, and that didn't happen," Schilling said.

Jhonny Peralta was due up, to be followed by Hafner.

''I was committed to [Schilling] through Peralta," Francona said.

On 2-and-2 to Peralta, Schilling reached back and threw his 132d pitch at 96 m.p.h. It was a ball, and he walked Peralta on his 133d and final pitch, most by any Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez threw 136 May 1, 2001. It was the most Schilling had thrown since a nine-inning complete-game loss with Philadelphia on July 7, 2000, when he unleashed 135 (in a game managed by Francona).

''There's this theory going around that in Philly I managed him, and I come here and this happens the same way," Schilling said. ''We talk, we communicate. I don't sit there and force his hand with me. He's the manager. I respect whatever he decides to do."

In came Foulke, who hadn't faced Hafner since the night last summer when he threw a changeup that Hafner roped into the seats in right for a grand slam and a 12-8 Cleveland win. That was the night that Foulke uttered his infamous ''Johnny from Burger King" line.

But he calmly threw a 73 m.p.h. changeup past Hafner to end the inning, and when Ramirez left the yard, the win belonged to Foulke (1-1, 3.95 ERA).

''That's what they pay me to do," Foulke said. ''It's not like we're surprised."

Of his changeup, he said, ''It's better now than in '04. It's better than it's been in a long time. Things are coming around slowly."

And then Jonathan Papelbon, in just 10 pitches, notched his major league-leading ninth save.

''It's very simple for him now, from a thought-process standpoint," Schilling said.

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