Sparks fly for Red Sox
Wells gets tossed but bullpen pitches in
A season is all about evolution, a player finding himself, and, when called for, management finding someone new. Plenty of that was on display yesterday at Fenway Park on what was, beginning to end, an eventful, entertaining day in the Back Bay.
There was Matt Mantei going -- he's out a minimum of 3-4 weeks, and quite possibly the season, with ligament damage in his left ankle. There was Pawtucket lefthander Abe Alvarez coming -- to replace Mantei, though Alvarez's stay is unknown. There was David Wells fighting himself at times, then fighting the umpires, completing his night after 6 2/3 innings by getting ejected.
There was Manny Ramírez continuing to find his swing, launching his ninth homer in his last 17 games to snap a 4-4 tie and vault the Sox to a 6-4 lead, which is how it ended against the pesky Blue Jays. And there was Keith Foulke -- in his first appearance since being taken out of the yard by Cleveland's Travis Hafner, then taking his anxiety out on the fans -- inheriting two runners with two outs in the eighth and getting Sox killer Reed Johnson to fly to right. He then held the Blue Jays scoreless in the ninth, though he allowed two singles.
In fact, in the search for new beginnings, Foulke came out to a new theme song last night. Scrapped was ''Mother," by Danzig, a song Bronson Arroyo chose for the Sox closer. Now Foulke comes jogging out of the bullpen to Hank Williams Jr.'s ''Country Boy Can Survive."
''It's time," Foulke said of the musical change. ''You listen to the song and you'll understand why."
Foulke was in position for the save, his 15th, thanks to Ramírez, who powered the Sox to only their third win in 10 games this season against Toronto. Ramírez did his damage with one vintage swing in the seventh with David Ortiz aboard and nobody out.
Blue Jays reliever Pete Walker left a hanger on the outside corner, and Ramírez stepped toward the mound, not the ball, and simply flung his bat at it. The ball started toward right fielder Alex Ríos before fading into the fandom behind Pesky's Pole. The homer gave Ramírez 45 against the Blue Jays, the most against Toronto by any player since the team entered the American League in 1977.
Ramírez's homer was his 20th, two behind AL leader Mark Teixeira, and he upped his league-leading RBI total to 70. In 17 games since June 12, Ramírez has cranked nine home runs and knocked in 26 runs while batting .364 (24 for 66). Slump? What slump?
''We need it," Terry Francona said of Ramírez's ability to carry the team, as he has lately. ''He knows that."
Ramírez's homer allowed the Sox to win despite a 4-0 deficit after four innings. In fact, it was the largest deficit the team has overcome to win this season. The Sox scored one in the fourth, one in the fifth, two in the sixth on Bill Mueller's ground-rule double with the bases loaded, and two more on Ramírez's homer in the seventh.
Wells, meanwhile, kept the team in the game until his emotions earned him an exit. Wells had allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out five when Shea Hillenbrand came to bat with two outs in the seventh.
With the count 1 and 1, Hillenbrand took a pitch for a ball Wells believed was a strike. As he's done many times this season, Wells waved his glove in disgust while verbalizing his displeasure. Plate umpire Larry Poncino took a few steps toward Wells and leaned over to hear Wells better.
''In disgust I threw my glove at him and winked at him," Wells said. ''He goes out and he starts yelling. I said, 'Get away, I don't want to talk to you.' "
Wells then called Poncino a choice word with his back to home plate. The word was heard by second base umpire Chris Guccione, who tossed Wells.
''The second base [umpire] rings me up and throws me out of the game," Wells said. ''You can't defend that. I think he overstepped his bounds. There's no reason. It wasn't between me and the second base [umpire]. It was between me and the home plate [umpire]. I don't know where the hell he came from and what was his reasoning. I've never seen that."
Asked what he said to Poncino, Wells told the media the two unprintable words he said.
''I didn't yell it out," he said. ''I said it to myself. Obviously, he can read my lips. It's something that I said. I didn't scream it out or yell it out. If they're going to throw me out for that, they should have thrown me out in the second inning when I gave up a two-out single. I let out the biggest [expletive] ever."
When he was ejected, Wells stormed toward Guccione, stopping only when he was in Guccione's face. Wells looked liable to bump Guccione, but he restrained himself, as teammates came to hold him back. Wells attempted to push his way by them but couldn't, blocked by multiple teammates, most notably Kevin Millar.
''Spit all over me," Millar said of Wells. ''I'm going to need to get a hepatitis shot."
Wells soon relented, though furious. Had Wells been allowed to finish the inning, he would have been the winner, since Ramírez's two-run homer in the bottom half bumped Boston to a 6-4 lead. Instead, Mike Timlin finished the inning and earned the win. He faced only one more batter, walking Gregg Zaun to lead off the eighth.
Alan Embree came on and got a ground ball off the bat of Frank Catalanotto that Mark Bellhorn flipped to Edgar Renteria to begin a double play. But the throw to first was close, and first base umpire Lance Barksdale ruled Catalanotto safe.
That got Francona out of the dugout. He didn't look excessively upset, until he was ejected by Barksdale, inciting a couple of minutes worth of shouting, pointing, and hands-on-hip motioning by Francona. His ejection, along with Wells's, gave the Sox 10 ejections in just 79 games, after only seven last season.