Boston's teeing-off party lands spot deep in history

OTHER VOICES

The Kickoff

April 24, 2007|By JEFF JACOBS | JEFF JACOBS,The Hartford Courant

BOSTON -- -- Daisuke Matsuzaka found out Sunday night what happens when you drill Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Yep, Matsuzaka discovered exactly what happens when you plunk the hottest hitter and coolest captain in baseball, respectively.

Maybe the sight of some high, uncomfortably tight heat energized the Boston Red Sox. Maybe the sound of a baseball striking expensive pinstriped flesh put smiles on some faces.

Or maybe it was all coincidence.

Guys who couldn't produce more than a run for Matsuzaka in two weeks suddenly were driving baseballs over the state line.

The Red Sox did more than sweep a series against the New York Yankees in Boston for the first time since 1990 with this 7-6 victory. Boston beat the name Chase Wright into the history books alongside Paul Foytack.

And when it was over, Matsuzaka, who must have been wondering where all the support had been, could only bow deeply and say, "arigato."

With two outs in the third inning and the Yankees leading 3-0, Manny Ramirez crushed a fastball for his second home run of the season.

Before the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona was talking about how he felt Ramirez, hitting only .193 entering the game, was just one click away from a hitting surge.

"Manny is such a good hitter that he's one of the few guys around that he knows he's going to hit," Francona said. "Some of us used to tell ourselves we're going to hit. He knows he's going to hit. To know you're that good, to be that confident, to not have to bluff your way through it, is special.

"It's amazing when you take a swing and you get to a pitch you haven't been getting to, it does click a lot of times, especially when the weather warms up and your at-bats carry over. That's the one thing about the cold weather: Your at-bats don't carry over. Even if you have a phenomenal at-bat and feel good about yourself, an hour later you come up and it's like you're starting over."

Game time temperature was 63 degrees, and, after a month of annoying cold and biblical rain, the weather turned spectacular for the weekend. Francona was right about the warm weather. He was right about how contagious one swing can be, too.

Only who would have known the power surge would spread faster than bad gossip?

Ramirez. Home run.

J.D. Drew. Home run.

Mike Lowell. Home run.

Jason Varitek. Home run.

"It certainly brought some life to the ballpark in a hurry," Francona said.

And if John Sterling hadn't been so down in the mouth over in the Yankees' radio booth, we're sure he would have been screaming, "belly to belly to belly to belly!"

When they played "Brass Bonanza" after Drew drove a 1-2 slider into the right-center-field seats, man, you could have sworn former Hartford Whalers could come to the plate and hit one off Wright.

Instead, it was Lowell who hit one over the Green Monster, past the Coke bottles, over everything for the third home run in a row.

OK, now we're looking for the history books - just in case. Now, we're hitting Google for every little historical tie-in.

Then Varitek lined a 1-0 fastball into the Monster seats.

The four consecutive home runs tied the major league record. It had been done only four times before, the first time by Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas of the Milwaukee Braves against the Cincinnati Reds on June 8, 1961.

The last time it happened was Sept. 18, 2006, when the Los Angeles Dodgers did it in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres. Just as he did Sunday night, Drew hit the second of those four homers. Drew and Jeff Kent homered off Jon Adkins. Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson followed by hitting homers on successive pitches off closer Trevor Hoffman.

Only once, however, had the four consecutive home runs come against one pitcher.

On July 31, 1963, the Cleveland Indians did it to Foytack in the second game of a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels. And it wasn't the heart of the order that did it. This wasn't the Braves of '61. This wasn't Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins doing it to the Kansas City Athletics in 1964.

Woodie Held, Pedro Ramos, Francona's dad, Tito, and Larry Brown hit the homers for the Indians. They were Nos. 8, 9, 1 and 2 in the order. The four of them combined for only 35 home runs that season. Ramos, a good-hitting pitcher, had 15 career home runs. Brown, a middle infielder, hit only 47.

"[Tito] actually told me the fifth guy bunted," Francona said. "I don't know if that's a story that he finds amusing or it's true. I've heard the story a lot of times. I've told it a lot of times. But when they put his name on the scoreboard tonight, I was proud."

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