Game 104: July 31, 2005
Twins (54-50), 3
Red Sox (59-45), 4
L: Juan Rincon (4-4)
W: Mike Timlin (4-1)
S: Curt Schilling (5)
Digital video recorders are devices of the gods. I have Jon Papelbon’s major league debut, all 5.1 innings and each of his 7 strikeouts, forever encoded in 0s and 1s. He shut down the Twins in his first 3 innings, and ended with 4 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 5 walks, and 2 home runs. Throughout it all, he showed peculiar poise for someone who had never pitched a major league game. A single chink in his armor showed when he thought he gave up a grand slam to Terry Tiffee in the 5th inning. He didn’t overreact, but tried to remain stoic as he asked the home plate umpire for another ball. And for yet another reason Papelbon found himself happy in Fenway Park, because what would have been a homer in McCoy Stadium was just a long fly ball out in Boston.
The 4th inning was the frame of dueling solo homers. Justin Morneau hit one to to right field and David Ortiz and John Olerud replied with back-to-back homers. Jacque Jones also homered off of Papelbon in the 6th inning to tie the game. Bill Mueller’s 6th error of the season in the 6th inning led to the go-ahead run by Lew Ford.
The Twins threatened in the 7th inning when Tiffee doubled and advanced to third on a Jones sacrifice bunt. Mike Myers induced a ground out from Morneau and Timlin came in to finish off Lew Ford. On Timlin’s seventh pitch, Ford lined to right and it it appeared that Minnesota would pad its lead with an insurance run. However, Gabe Kapler would rob Ford of extra bases with a stunning catch in right field. Kapler took what he thought would be the correct path to the ball, but it began slicing away from him. He changed direction, like a cornerback, Jerry Remy noted, and made the catch to end the threat. Timlin also worked himself out of a bases loaded-jam in the 8th inning, making it a hard-earned win.
Kevin Millar tied the game in the bottom of the 7th with a sacrifice fly to the opposite field, scoring Olerud, who had reached on a fly ball single to Ford. He was taken out of the game by the top of the 8th because of a hamstring issue. The crowded stirred throughout the 7th inning, uniting for a chant of “We want Manny!” (Local 7 News just showed a clip of Manny jubilant in the dugout asking “You know what I’m going to do right now? I’m going to do like Rogers!” Then he went for the camera. He can be a comedian when he finishes his baseball career.)
It could not have been scripted better. The Red Sox were quickly down 2 outs in the 8th inning after Rincon struck out Kapler and got Johnny Damon to ground out. Edgar Renteria came through with a double, and Ortiz was walked with first base open and Adam Stern in the offing. With 2 outs and 2 runners on, Manny Ramirez pinch hit for Stern. The crowd was beyond hysterical, past insanity, more rabid than I have seen and heard them in quite a while. The only scenarios that come within similar spiritedness are when Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling would be slamming the door with a strikeout to end an inning against the middle of the opposition’s lineup. Ramirez watched the first pitch, a called strike, fly by. Rincon worked him away with a ball and then came back for another called strike. With the count 2-1, I was apprehensive; perhaps the time away had dulled his ability. The left fielder fouled off the next pitch away, and did one of his patented “gee, I’m lucky I made contact on that one looks.” On the 2-2, Ramirez grounded up the gut to score Renteria and the Red Sox took the lead to sweep the Twins out of town.
All is happy in the Hub until the next time Manny asks for a trade. But, if the result is another run at the championship, I’ll sit through any number of baseball soap operas. Just be sure to tell me when the Millar marries Manny episode airs, because I’ll need to program my DVR to catch it.