Power trip for Red Sox
Five-homer barrage sinks Mariners for 5th straight win
SEATTLE -- By virtue of making three starts this season, Kyle Snyder is a longtime member of the Red Sox family compared with Kason Gabbard, the kid scheduled to make his major league debut this afternoon. How familiar is Gabbard to manager Terry Francona?
``The one time I can remember him is I think he pitched the night game against the college team -- does that make sense?" Francona said of Gabbard's lone appearance in a spring training game. ``I think he pitched a couple of innings.
``Other than that, the only time I talked to him was in Applebee's, where I bought him a beer. [I was] sitting there waiting for my usual salad, having a beer or two while I wait, these three guys [Jim Buckley, him, and Chris Smith] came in. I knew he was a player, but I had no idea who he was. He was out of uniform. I had to apologize to him. I said, `I have no idea who you are.' "
When you're reduced to guessing the identity of your starting pitchers, or having to treat newcomers like Snyder as old-timers, the best way to keep winning is to obliterate whomever happens to be standing on the hill for the other club. That's precisely what the Sox did last night to 43-year-old Jamie Moyer, mashing five home runs -- by five players -- en route to a 9-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners before a sellout crowd of 46,025 in an unseasonably steamy Safeco Field.
David Ortiz (No. 33), Alex Gonzalez (No. 7), Jason Varitek (No. 10), Kevin Youkilis (No. 11), and Manny Ramírez (No. 26) connected off Moyer, the former Sox pitcher and Sudbury, Mass., country squire who in 505 career starts had never been subjected to the kind of beating administered by the Sox. Ortiz is the major league leader in home runs, while Ramírez is an old tormentor. Ramírez has 10 home runs off the Mariner mushballer, two more than he has against any other pitcher. (Worcester's Tanyon Sturtze, on the disabled list with the Yankees, is Manny's next favorite stoolie, having given up eight.)
The five home runs were the most by the Sox in a game this season; they'd hit four in a game five times -- the last time at Tampa Bay July 6 -- and all six games of four or more home runs have come on the road.
But the Sox had hardly been in muscle-flexing mode back home in the Fens, which made last night's power display on their first West Coast foray of 2006 all the more impressive.
The Sox hit just four home runs in their previous seven games, and had not hit more than one in their last 10 games before leaving the yard early and often in Safeco, where the game-time temperature (89 degrees) was more like Houston than the Pacific Northwest.
``It's encouraging," Francona said of a team that had scored 18 runs in its last five games at home. ``This is not the place you go to bust out. We swung the bats very well. It was kind of uncharacteristic of us [to struggle] at home. I think this was kind of a good sign. We have a tendency on the road to have to dig ourselves out of a hole.
``The ball carried very well tonight, but I think the home runs were all hit well. We swung the bat well."
The difference in Moyer, who had lost a 2-1 game to the Sox in Fenway Park on April 14?
``He didn't have a lead," Francona said. ``When he gets the lead, he expands the zone, you get a little impatient and get yourself out. Tonight, we did a good job. He got some pitches up, and we sat on some pitches."
A night like this, there was even room for levity, Francona chuckling at the sight of Ortiz hitting the deck on an inside pitch that struck the knob of his bat. The ball went straight down.
``So did David," Francona said. ``It was hard not to laugh. He was kind of making me laugh. I tried to put up an argument, but I was laughing at him."
For his part, Snyder last night did not resemble a guy burdened with a 7.45 ERA in his previous exercises for the Sox (10.03 ERA if you count his one start for Kansas City), including an 8-1 beating by the Athletics last Sunday in Boston. Snyder held the Mariners -- who were coming off a trip in which they lost two of three to each of Boston's closest pursuers in the AL East, the Blue Jays and Yankees -- without a run until the fifth, when errors by Youkilis, who played third last night, and center fielder Coco Crisp led to a couple of unearned runs.
The Sox, who were just a half-game ahead of the Yankees Tuesday, pushed their lead over the Bombers to 3 1/2 games, winning their fifth straight while New York dropped its third in a row.
But the 6-foot-8-inch Snyder still managed to throw a scare into the Sox at the start of the sixth, when he threw a couple of warm-ups and trainer Paul Lessard and Francona saw something to cause them to jog to the mound. Snyder was lifted, but the injury is minor: a muscle cramp in his right calf.
The rookie, Craig Hansen (around here, that's almost becoming redundant -- when Gabbard pitches today, he will become the ninth to pitch for the club this season), replaced Snyder and breezed through a 1-2-3 sixth. But Hansen gave up three consecutive hits to start the seventh, leading to a couple of runs, allowing the Mariners to draw within 8-4. Youkilis started an around-the-horn double play to temper the uprising, but when Adrian Beltre bounced a single through the left side, Francona went to another rook, Manny Delcarmen, for whom this late-inning stuff is becoming routine.
Delcarmen retired Raul Ibanez on a fly to Gabe Kapler in left (Ramírez was serving as DH), then worked a scoreless eighth.
Ortiz was the first to go deep, hitting a two-out home run in the first. Ortiz's five home runs off the lefthanded Moyer are the most he's hit off any pitcher, matching the five he's hit off Toronto ace Roy Halladay.
Moyer fumbled Kapler's comebacker for an error to open the third, which Gonzalez followed with a drive off the left-field scoreboard to make it 3-0. Varitek led off the fourth with his home run, also to left, continuing the oddity of hitting home runs only on the road. His last eight home runs, since a grand slam May 7 against Baltimore, have come away from the Fens.
Gonzalez opened the fifth with a four-pitch walk and Youkilis, who was in a .162 slump (6 for 37), pulled a 1-and-0 pitch into the seats to make it 6-0. One out later, Moyer walked Ortiz, a prelude to Ramírez's blast into the left-field seats. Moyer, who has made a living on guile and changing speeds, fooled few Sox hitters, regardless of where he set the dial.
The Sox padded their lead in the ninth off wild reliever Emiliano Fruto (three walks and a wild pitch in 1 1/3 innings), Crisp delivering an RBI single (breaking an 0-for-15 slump) to left that scored Ramírez, making it 9-4.