September 16, 2004

Function Trumps Form. Everyone agrees that Boston's 8-6 victory over Tampa Bay Wednesday night was pretty ugly, but at this point in the season, aesthetic appearances mean little. In the AL East standings, last night's win counts as much as a 20-0 rout.

The victory was hard-won. Boston trailed 1-0 before they batted in the first, and lost leads of 2-1, 4-2 and 6-4. Tim Wakefield struggled yet again. Curtis Leskanic's brief appearance in the 6th, allowing a one-out double and a 2-run home run that allowed the Devil Rays to tie the game at 6-6, was the first time since August 1 that the bullpen had blown a lead.

After Tampa had tied the game, Boston came right back. Franklin Nunez began the 6th by walking Doug Mirabelli and Kevin Youkilis. Bobby Seay took over and walked Johnny Damon, loading the bases. He then got Mark Bellhorn to pop to first, before Chad Gaudin surrendered a sacrifice fly to Manny Ramirez. ... Boston scored once more in the 7th when Kevin Millar doubled and scored on shortstop Julio Lugo's error.

The trio of Ramiro Mendoza (7th), Mike Timlin (8th) and Keith Foulke (9th) each retired the three batters they faced to close out the game. ... Bonus: Ramirez stole third base in the 3rd inning, getting such a good jump off pitcher Dewon Brazelton that Toby Hall didn't even attempt a throw.

Last night also continued Brazelton's extreme home-road splits:
      GM  W  L  ERA     IP    H  BB   SO   AVG

Home 11 6 2 2.11 68.1 51 31 34 .206
Away 8 0 5 9.62 33.2 50 16 19 .350
Bill Mueller went to Phoenix yesterday to have his right knee examined by the surgeon who performed last May's arthroscopic surgery. Mueller will probably be back with the team tonight, and even though Terry Francona called the results of an MRI before Mueller left for Arizona "fairly encouraging," he will likely not play before the weekend. ... He bruised the knee sliding for a foul ball last weekend in Seattle.

On the eve of the Yankees-Red Sox series, Ira Berkow tries to get to the heart of a persistent rumor. Did Jason Varitek really tell Alex Rodriguez "We don't throw at .260 hitters" just before the fists started flying last July? Not according to the Boston catcher. Varitek: "That's ridiculous. I'm not that smart to come up with such a clever line in the heat of battle. I knew Arroyo didn't hit him on purpose, and I just told him to get along to first base." ... The quote first appeared in Bill Simmons's ESPN column.

The Red Sox lost a coin flip, meaning that any playoff game needed to decide the AL East (if the wild card does not come from that division) will be played at Yankee Stadium on Monday, October 4. ... Pedro Martinez will oppose Mike Mussina (not rookie Brad Halsey) this Sunday. The Yankees are off today and will skip Halsey's spot in the rotation.

Schilling goes for his 20th win of the season tonight; Mark Hendrickson starts for Tampa. If successful, Schilling would become only the fourth Red Sox pitcher since 1978 to win 20 games in a season, joining Pedro Martinez (twice), Derek Lowe (once) and Fat Billy (thrice).

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