A real diamond sparkler
ARLINGTON, Texas - Next question.
That’s assuming, if I heard you correctly, your last question was something along the lines of “Why can’t the Red Sox beat these guys?’’
Now anyone with half a brain knew that the results of those first three games of the season against the Rangers were 100 percent irrelevant, now that we’re moving in on September. Who cares what happened on April 1? And on the subject of Monday night’s game, just give C.J. Wilson a little credit. The man is a borderline elite pitcher.
And now that the Red Sox have followed up Tuesday night’s 11-5 pounding of Texas with an even more impressive 13-2 victory last night, does that mean the Rangers will be having a team meeting this morning to decide if they will even bother to show up for tonight’s final game of this series? Ah, I don’t think so. It doesn’t work that way.
The fact that the current opponent happens to be a potential playoff foe is an interesting subplot, but only that. What matters is the scope of the Sox’ play, especially last night, when the team with the best road record in baseball (yup, even better than Philly’s) pretty much checked off everything a manager would like to see from a baseball team in one nine-inning display.
■ 13 runs on 16 hits, with each starter having at least one.
■ three home runs.
■ good defense.
■ a spectacular all-around game from your MVP candidate center fielder.
■ a five-RBI game from your beleaguered left fielder.
■a solid, professional effort from your staff leader.
■a nice comeback game from your DH, playing for the first time in nine games after dealing with bursitis in his right heel.
■a massive dose of luck when a liner misses smashing into your starter’s face by millimeters.
The Red Sox scored early and never stopped, tallying runs in every inning but the third and ninth. “We did good,’’ said Terry Francona. “We got four runs early and kept at it. You can’t let up against this team. The lineup is so potent.’’
Josh Beckett had a four-run lead before taking the mound, and by the fourth he was the second Sox pitcher in two nights to be sitting on a 6-0 lead. He was good but not great, needing 110 pitches to get through six innings, during which the only run was a homer to left-center by catcher Mike Napoli, who burnished his reputation as a Red Sox killer with his first career dinger off Beckett, in the fourth. “The ball was neck-high,’’ groused the skipper. “I’m not sure what to throw him.’’
Napoli even drove in the second run with a single off Matt Albers in the eighth. Sounds like they should just put him on and get the next guy.
It was 105 degrees at game time, so Beckett said there wasn’t much trouble working up a little sweat. “It’s definitely easy to get loose when it’s a hundred,’’ he declared.
The Rangers made him work for it. Beckett went to seven 3-2 counts, including four in one stretch of six batters. “He kind of navigated his way through,’’ said Francona. But that’s what smart, veteran pitchers can do. Anyway, Beckett has had more than his share of low-scoring, gut-busting games.
Beckett was happy just to be alive after what almost happened in the fifth.
There were men on first and second and one out when Ian Kinsler hit a liner directly at Beckett. But instead of hitting Beckett in the face, the ball wound up in his glove. Somehow.
“I never saw it,’’ Beckett said. “I really didn’t. That ball caught me, I didn’t catch it.’’
Plate umpire Dana DeMuth came out to see if he was OK. “I was all right,’’ Beckett said. “Tek [Jason Varitek] was the one who was scared. I just wanted to throw another pitch before I started thinking about it.’’
Anyone who saw what happened to Bryce Florie 11 years ago knows how fortunate Beckett was.
So much for pitching. Now it doesn’t take a PhD in Diamondology to know that if your table-setter is doing his job the game becomes a whole lot easier. All Jacoby Ellsbury did last night was beat out a grounder to start the game and ignite a four-run first, steal a base, hit his 23d home run, and make a great running catch in right-center to take an extra base hit away from - who else? - Napoli. All of Ellsbury’s skills were on display.
“He impacts the game all over the place,’’ said Francona. “That’s what great players do.’’
Another guy with speed who impacted the game was Carl Crawford, who compiled his five ribbies on a two-run double down the right-field line, a sacrifice fly scoring an express train named David Ortiz, and an impressive homer to dead center.
And speaking of Ortiz, Big Papi singled home a run on the first pitch he saw from starter and loser Matt Harrison. He scored on the Crawford double when Napoli, no Gold Glove candidate, dropped the throw with Papi seemingly out by a half-dozen steps.
“He felt the earthquake coming in,’’ Papi explained.
Ortiz later doubled and scored on the Crawford sac fly, making it two exciting excursions to the plate, or two more than the manager would have preferred. “When you’re back, you’re back,’’ Tito said with a shrug.
Almost forgot. Adrian Gonzalez, who came to Rangers Ballpark having hit one home run since the All-Star Game, now has three in two nights, two Tuesday night and his 21st last night. So perhaps people can stop worrying about him.
The cherry on the sundae was the Yankees losing to Oakland. The Red Sox once again left the ballpark as a first-place team.
“I think there’s more significance [to his team] in what food’s going to be served in there tonight,’’ said Francona.
Easy for him to say. His team’s play made his life very nice and comfy last night.