This is what happens when Manny Ramírez is ejected: Career minor leaguer Joe Thurston makes three plate appearances, Dustin Pedroia's day off is interrupted by a summons to pinch hit in the cleanup spot, and Julio Lugo, who began the game at shortstop, winds up playing in front of the Monster for the first time in his career.
Oh, and the Red Sox come from five runs down to beat the Texas Rangers, 6-5, before a gleeful crowd of 37,480 that witnessed the Sox score four times after there were two outs and nobody on in the eighth. Not quite in the class of last season's Mother's Day Miracle - Seder Surprise? The Pre-Marathon Sprint? - but an immensely satisfying win for a team that now has won four straight and eight of nine and is undefeated (5-0) in games decided in the last at-bat.
"It's just how we drew it up," said manager Terry Francona, whose afternoon looked spoiled when Milton Bradley took Tim Wakefield deep for a three-run home run that gave the Rangers a 5-0 lead in the sixth, but ended with Pedroia delivering a game-tying, pinch-hit double and Sean Ca sey drawing a bases-loaded walk to go ahead, seven straight Sox hitters reaching safely in the eighth. "There's something to be said for plugging away."
All of this happened after Ramírez, arguably baseball's hottest hitter, was bounced by plate umpire Paul Emmel for suggesting in language deemed objectionable that Emmel had wronged him by calling him out on strikes in the second inning. Ramírez, who leads the majors with 20 RBIs and had hit four home runs in the last seven days, recently has been more contentious about ball-strike calls (this one was borderline).
"Usually when Manny argues, he has an issue," Pedroia said. "I haven't looked at the pitches, but Manny's more a 'tip your hat' kind of guy. When he says something, there's usually a problem."
Ramírez, who was replaced in left field by Thurston and was out the clubhouse door shortly after Jonathan Papelbon retired former Sox prospect David Murphy on a pop fly to end it, expressed his gratitude wordlessly after Pedroia shot a double into the right-center field gap off Rangers lefthander C.J. Wilson to score David Ortiz from first to tie the score.
"He gave me a big hug when I came in," Pedroia said with a smile. "But he gives me a big hug every day, so I don't know what that was."
Rookie Jed Lowrie, who doubled off Rangers starter Kevin Millwood and scored Boston's first run in the seventh on a single by Ortiz (J.D. Drew eventually brought Ortiz home with a single off reliever Wes Littleton), also figured prominently in the winning rally. Lowrie followed Jacoby Ellsbury's base hit with an RBI double to right that made it 5-3, then scored Boston's fourth run when Ortiz legged out a hit that was fielded on the outfield grass by second baseman Ian Kinsler. Ortiz barely beat Kinsler's throw to the bag, and Lowrie scored easily when Texas first baseman Ben Broussard forgot Lowrie was headed plateward.
"I got an early break on it because there were two outs," Lowrie said. "I hesitated at third base because I thought I saw DeMarlo [Hale, the third base coach] hesitate, but once I got around third I just made a break for it."
Texas manager Ron Washington, whose team is in danger of being swept by the Sox if they lose today's Patriots Day brunch, was not enchanted by his team's second straight loss in a game in which it had led after seven innings.
"That was huge," he said of Broussard's brain cramp. "Once you didn't get [Ortiz] at first base, you have to be aware that you have a runner at second and you just can't let him cross the dish. If Broussard realized they called David safe and there is a runner at second, he has to come back to the plate. We'd have blown that guy up at home. Gerald [Laird, the catcher] would have had the ball and been waiting for him."
The inning was replete with Sox base-running bravado, not the team's usual strong suit. There was Lowrie's dash to the plate, and Ortiz's just crossing the tape before the throw. "When the play's in front of you, you run a little faster than you are," said Casey, an expert on big-man chugging. "Any guy who is slow and senses a hit runs a half-step faster."
Then there was Ortiz's 270-foot jaunt home from first on Pedroia's gapper. "Right when I hit that ball, I was like, 'C'mon score,' " Pedroia said. "I looked up, and he was running. He had it easy."
Pedroia had his own mad dash, breaking for third when Josh Hamilton's heave from center field landed in no man's land beyond short, and just eluding the tag of Hank Blalock after he retrieved the errant throw.
"I looked up, the ball was bouncing, and I figured I was at least faster than a rolling ball on the high grass," Pedroia said. "I was - barely."
All that running, and the game was decided by some Sunday afternoon strolls. Wilson walked Kevin Youkilis intentionally, walked Drew on a full count, then did the same with Casey, who was down, 1 and 2, before Wilson lost him. Casey has been part of a lot of winning since playing in the absence of injured Mike Lowell; the Sox are 9-2 since Lowell went on the DL.
To win like this without Ramírez?
"Means we've got some other good players on this team," Casey said. "It's exciting. It brings a sense of unity."