Four tossed as Red Sox throw Twins for a loss
MINNEAPOLIS - No sooner had the words come out of Josh Beckett's mouth than Jason Varitek popped out of his crouch and turned around, getting face to face with Todd Tichenor, normally a Triple A umpire.
Although Beckett didn't want to divulge what he had yelled at Tichenor in the seventh in response to a close pitch he thought should have been a strike - "Just some baseball terms," he said. "You can't write it. [Television] can't hear it. There's no reason for me to elaborate." - it was enough to reignite what had occurred in the top half of the inning.
That was when the first set of catcher and manager was ejected by Tichenor, with the Twins' Mike Redmond and Ron Gardenhire getting the boot for arguing a play at the plate. Then it was the Red Sox' turn.
Varitek stood there, his right arm extended, as Tichenor raised his right arm to issue the ejection. Seconds later, Sox manager Terry Francona arrived, but too late to save his catcher, and he also was soon thrown out. Varitek, however, saved Beckett, who was 6 1/3 innings into an ace-like outing and later acknowledged, "It was all caused by me."
Varitek, who has found power in his formally impotent swing, had hit two home runs, solo shots that provided enough support for a trio of pitchers in a 3-1 win over the Twins. While the first homer traveled an estimated 408 feet to center, the second left an impression.
"That was nice to see," Francona said. "That was a beautiful swing."
Varitek's second homer was estimated at 427 feet, landing in the upper deck in right-center. Both came from the left side against rookie righthander Anthony Swarzak. Varitek now has five homers from each side of the plate, and raised his average batting lefthanded from .222 to .231 (.248 overall).
Varitek has declined to speak about his offense all season, and yesterday he declined to speak at all. Emotions had clearly won out in the bottom of the seventh, though protecting his pitcher from being tossed in such a situation cannot be overstated, even with Beckett likely to only finish that inning.
It appeared that Beckett was getting a tight strike zone, which didn't hamper him much, as he allowed just one run - a homer by Joe Crede in the second - on three hits and four walks. He struck out eight batters, and allowed only two Twins to reach third.
"I thought [Tichenor] was making it hard on Beckett," Francona said after praising his starter. "I know Beckett yelled in. Tek's protecting Beckett, and I'm protecting Tek. He got Tek, and that's what I didn't want to have happen. I'm not fast enough to get out there in time. I'd rather him throw me out than Tek. Tek's going to have a hell of a lot more to do with the outcome than I am. Sometimes you have to state your opinion."
He did. So did Varitek. So did Redmond. And so did Gardenhire.
Although Tichenor is not allowed to talk to reporters, crew chief Jerry Layne said, "Varitek was trying to keep his pitcher in the game. Varitek took one for the team, basically. Terry Francona did his job, too. The bottom line is the managers have a job to do and the umpires have a job to do, and it was a different situation to be in as an umpire and I thought that Todd Tichenor did an extremely good job. He handled it the way I like to see a person handle it."
Meanwhile, every Sox runner who reached third base scored - Varitek on his two homers and Jeff Bailey in the seventh, a play that resulted in Redmond being ejected, designated hitter Joe Mauer needing to catch, and the Twins going without a DH for the final three innings.
Bailey popped up Swarzak's final pitch into short right field, where it hit off the glove of second baseman Matt Tolbert for a double. Bailey moved to third on a fly out by Julio Lugo. Dustin Pedroia also hit a fly to right, deep enough for third base coach DeMarlo Hale to say, "Tag," to Bailey. He did. But what happened at the plate was a bit fuzzy.
"All right, I'm going," Bailey said. "[Jason Kubel] made a great throw. [Redmond] gave me the whole plate, so it wasn't going to be one of those situations where I need to have a collision or anything like that. I could just sense the ball bearing down on me a little bit, so I decided to just stay on the outside and try to get my hand in there. That turned out to be the best thing."
Because whether or not he did - it was difficult to tell, even on replay - Bailey was called safe with an insurance run.
"I bet you he got his hand in there," said Francona, who hadn't yet seen a replay. "But I know it was a bang-bang and I know it was tough to see. But I think it's one of those calls that's hard to get called because the ball beats him. I thought he got his hand in there.
"I don't care. As long as they call him safe, I don't care."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.