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Home » April 2008 Game CommentsApril 2008 » Manrui Hōmuran [満塁ホームラン]

Manrui Hōmuran [満塁ホームラン]

Game 18: April 18, 2008
Rangers 3 L: Luis Mendoza (0-2) 7-10, 1 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 11 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-0) 11-7, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: David Ortiz buoyed his team not only with his smile but also with his third-inning manrui homuran (grand slam home run). The first character means “full” and the second stands for “bases.” The remainder of the phrase is the Japanized pronunciation for home run, keeping in mind that the “a” sound in Japanese is the same as in Spanish or Hawaiian.

I entered through Gate E and bought a raffle ticket for the 2007 championship ring. Just as they did in 2005, a sample ring was on hand to entice fans to enter the raffle, as if further encouragement would be needed.

The weather was near-perfect last night. The cocoa being hawked by the vendors just last week was replaced by Sports Bars and Italian ice. The dancers entertaining the fans for Puerto Rico Day could wear flirtatious dresses without getting a chill. Kids taken to Fenway for their first ballgame weren’t bundled up as if they were on a Trans-Siberian trek.

The temperature wasn’t the only thing heating up. Rookies Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie played in place of their older and, in Coco Crisp’s case, ailing counterparts. The pair not only held their own but improved upon the production of the players they replaced. In his Fenway debut Lowrie sent a liner into the left field corner, unafraid to slash at a pitch he liked with two out and a strike against him.

The extra base hit rattled Luis Mendoza, who signed as a minor league free agent with the Red Sox in 2000. He passed to the Padres on waivers in July of 2005 only to be reclaimed from the NL team later in the month. In 2006 Boston sent him to the Rangers for Bryan Corey.

Certainly Mendoza’s dreams in the years after he joined the Red Sox involved pitching in Fenway were nothing like what happened with the next three batters he faced. Pitching from the stretch unhinged his mechanics and he walked Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in a mere nine pitches.

David Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box and one toss later a fan in the Monster seats had a souvenir. The lyric little bandbox turned into a raucous rock show as Papi rounded the bases with even more flash bulbs popping than usual.

Not to be outdone by oldtimers, in the next inning Ellsbury improved upon J.D. Drew’s walk, Jason Varitek’s double, Sean Casey’s single, and Lowrie’s sacrifice fly with a stand-up triple. Had the angle of the ball’s caroms eluded Josh Hamilton for a few seconds more, we could have been looking at an inside-the-park home run.

Knowing he couldn’t leg out such an accomplishment without strategically placed mines in the outfield, Pedroia fired a four-bagger one row beyond where Ortiz hit his.

Jerry Meals, home plate umpire of the evening, also happened to be behind the dish when Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters in 1998. Either his zone has shrunk since then or Daisuke Matsuzaka was barely missing; the starter hurled 101 pitches in just five and one-third innings of work. Pitching with such a large lead should have been easier on the starter, but Matsuzaka didn’t have his prime stuff and was knocked out of the game when Hank Blalock arced a two-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen.

The denizens of the pen, those corsairs of the club, sent out Javier Lopez, David Aardsma, and Mike Timlin to finish off the last-place Rangers.

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