Monday, April 23, 2007

4 Red Sox Homers in a Row ties Major League Record

There have been many powerful teams in the long and illustrious history of the Boston Red Sox. But none of them put on the fireworks show like the one seen on Sunday night at Fenway Park.
With two outs in the third inning, nobody on and the Red Sox trailing the Yankees, 3-0, Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek homered in consecutive at-bats against Yankee left-hander Chase Wright, a first in Red Sox history.

Ramirez started the long ball avalanche by hitting a 2-1 pitch over the Green Monster Seats in left-center field.

Drew was next, and little did he know that he was about to make Major League history.

When Drew launched a 1-2 pitch into the right-center-field seats, the Red Sox had gone back-to-back for the first time this season.

The Red Sox were far from done, or satisfied.

Lowell stepped to the plate next and took a called strike and a ball. He then drilled a breaking ball into the Monster Seats for the third consecutive homer. The Red Sox had tied the game on three swings of the bat and had homered in three consecutive plate appearances for the first time since May 31, 1980, when Tony Perez, Carlton Fisk and Butch Hobson went deep.

"Total disbelief in the dugout, because usually four straight hitters don't square up a ball for base hits, let alone home runs," said Lowell, who later added a three-run round-tripper that proved the decisive blow in Boston's 7-6 win, Daisuke Matsuzaka's first at Fenway Park.

"Then, being down three, you get there, you tie it, and then you go ahead, that's a big momentum shift, because you're doing it in a way that kind of gets the crowd going and they're totally on our side. I think it kind of pumps up Daisuke because you're not looking for a couple of bloops and a blast," Lowell added.

Then Varitek walked to the plate with a chance at history. After taking a ball, the Red Sox catcher swung and connected, driving the 1-0 pitch into the Monster Seats. Four home runs, a huge momentum shift and a place into the record books -- all in 10 pitches.

"You don't see that too often," said the understated Varitek. "It electrified this place a little bit. Odds were against us, though. During a ballgame, you're not aware of it, but it's a fun thing to be a part of."

As he sat in the dugout moments after following a long Ramirez home run with a long ball of his own to right field, Drew felt a sense of déjà vu.

On Sunday night, the Red Sox became one of five teams to belt four consecutive home runs in a game:
Team Date Opponent Players
Red Sox 4/22/2007 NYY Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek
Dodgers 9/18/2006 SD Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, Marlon Anderson
Twins 5/2/1964 KC Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall
Indians 7/31/1963 LAA Woody Held, Pedro Ramos, Tito Francona, Larry Brown
Braves 6/8/1961 CIN Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, Frank Thomas
"I hit mine and didn't think much about it," Drew said. "Mikey hits a big home run, and then I looked down [the bench] and told Coco [Crisp] that we're one pitch away from doing what happened in L.A. last September. Then 'Tek has a good at-bat, hits a home run, and you smile and laugh and wonder, 'How in the world is that possible?' I'm the common denominator, I guess, has to be the second [batter] in the mix."

Last Sept. 18, Drew's Dodgers trailed the San Diego Padres, 9-5, heading into the bottom of the ninth. Jon Adkins entered the game and promptly gave up homers to Jeff Kent and Drew. Trevor Hoffman relieved and surrendered two more homers on the first two pitches he threw to Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson.

"I don't want to take anything away from [Sunday's game] because it was a really cool thing to be a part of," Drew said. "The situation we were in, in September of last year, with chasing the Padres in the middle of that pennant race and [using] the bottom of the ninth to do it [was special]. I think with the way the game had played out to that point was a little different situation [than Sunday]."

There couldn't have been a better birthday gift to Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, who turned 48 on Sunday.

"I was feeling better as the number mounted," Francona said. "I guess on one hand, we were fairly efficient that inning, but on the other hand, we, up to that point, didn't really have a lot to show for it. I mean, we did it with two outs. It certainly brought some life back into the ballpark in a hurry."

Yankees Coverage
• Yanks overwhelmed by homers
• Wright's fortunes changed quickly
• Notes: Posada's thumb no better

April 21 coverage: Karstens burned by Sox in debut Yankees get first look at Dice-K Notes: Damon joins wounded April 20 coverage: Rivera's blown save dooms Yanks Singer: A-Rod's tear a wonder Posada leaves with bruised thumb Notes: Bean adds depth to bullpen

Previous season series
• 2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
• 2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
• 2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

Before Wright on Sunday, only one pitcher had given up four straight homers in an inning. Francona's father, Tito, with the Indians, was one of the four to tag Paul Foytack of the Los Angeles Angels on July 31, 1963, in the second game of a doubleheader.

Before last September, there were just three cases in Major League history of a team hitting four straight homers in an inning, all since 1961.

May 2, 1964: The Twins beat the Kansas City Athletics in Kansas City, 7-3. In the top of the 11th inning, the first four batters homered: Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew. Both Oliva and Killebrew had hit home runs earlier in the game.

July 31, 1963: The Cleveland Indians repeated a feat first performed by the Braves in 1961. In the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels in Cleveland, Woodie Held, pitcher Pedro Ramos, Tito Francona and Larry Brown hit four consecutive home runs, all off Foytack.

June 8, 1961: Four consecutive Milwaukee Braves batters homered in the seventh inning of a game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas hit home runs off two Reds hurlers, but, even with two other Braves four-baggers, including another by Mathews and one by pitcher Warren Spahn, the Reds prevailed, 10-8.

5 Red Sox Homers Bury Yankees as Boston Sweeps New York

The record-tying flurry of four straight home runs struck by the Red Sox in their stunning bottom of the third inning were all no-doubters. But quite a ways after, the outcome of Sunday night's latest Red Sox-Yankees madness was still very much in doubt.
All the Red Sox had on their side were a few isolated moments that went their way. And they needed every one of them to separate themselves from the Yankees in what wound up a seat-squirming 7-6 victory that seemed to encapsulate so much of the tension that has taken place in this rivalry over the years.

"The games are always exciting," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Obviously, it's more exciting when you win, but they're never easy."

Daisuke Matsuzaka, making his first foray into the rivalry, can now attest to that. He had to endure the indignity of allowing six runs to claim his first home victory in a Boston uniform.

Make no mistake about it, this one climbed high on the degree-of-difficulty scale. So much so that Yankees manager Joe Torre seemed to be at a bit of a loss for how his team didn't escape Boston with at least one win.

"Three games, we battled," Torre said. "That's all you can do. We came out on the short end. They made some great plays. It was a great ballgame. You hate to think it's a great ballgame when you lose."

When it was over, the Red Sox had completed their first Fenway Park sweep of the Yankees since 1990, three moments that were all decided by a matter of inches.

The first was Mike Lowell's second homer of the night, a literal wall-scraper that sort of nestled into home run territory. If the seventh-inning liner had caromed off the Monster instead of barely getting over it, the teams might still be playing. Instead, Lowell's three-run long ball put the Sox ahead for good and made a 5-4 deficit disappear.

"I think I got it by about eight inches," said Lowell.

Then came the top of the eighth, when the Yankees nearly stormed right back. Runners were at the corners with one out, the Boston lead back down to one. Brendan Donnelly's pitch was smoked up the middle by Josh Phelps. It seemed like a sure hit to tie the game, but then Dustin Pedroia snared the sinking liner with a diving backhand. Inning over, crisis averted.

"The play he made, he willed himself to catch that ball," said Francona of Pedroia.

Then just one more moment to create a ballpark full of tension. There were two outs in the top of the ninth and Bobby Abreu on first base after a walk. The hitter was Alex Rodriguez, the hottest hitter on the planet.

The closer was Jonathan Papelbon, Boston's red-hot closer. A-Rod hit a crisp grounder, but right at Lowell, who fired to second, ending the wildly entertaining contest.

A-Rod vs. Papelbon was definitely a fitting grand finale.

"Yeah, but it's still easier to enjoy when it was over," said Francona. "That's one of those things where you say, 'Boy, that was cool.' We obviously love our guy, but you respect what the other guy's doing. So it's a neat atmosphere, for sure."

All the pregame hype was about Matsuzaka's first encounter with the Yankees. Still, his performance (seven-plus innings plus, eight hits, six runs, seven strikeouts) became a bit of a blur by the end of an eventful night.

Yankees Coverage
• Yanks overwhelmed by homers
• Wright's fortunes changed quickly
• Notes: Posada's thumb no better

April 21 coverage: Karstens burned by Sox in debut Yankees get first look at Dice-K Notes: Damon joins wounded April 20 coverage: Rivera's blown save dooms Yanks Singer: A-Rod's tear a wonder Posada leaves with bruised thumb Notes: Bean adds depth to bullpen

Red Sox Coverage
Game photos
• Five long balls sink Yankees
• Sox tie mark with four homers
• Singer: Welcome to Sox-Yanks, Dice-K
• Sox celebrate Robinson's legacy
• Notes: Lester nears return

April 21 coverage: Game photos Papelbon answers call to duty Singer: Sox aim for historic sweep Ortiz authors another victory Sox go for sweep behind Dice-K Notes: Struggling Pedroia sits April 20 coverage: Game photos Red Sox conquer Mo to top Yanks Okajima fills in flawlessly for Papelbon Red Sox honor Auerbach with green Notes: Power arms meet power bats
Season Series
• 4/22: Red Sox 7, Yankees 6
• 4/21: Red Sox 7, Yankees 5
• 4/20: Red Sox 7, Yankees 6

Previous season series
• 2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
• 2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
• 2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

"I wanted very badly to record my first win at Fenway Park," said Matsuzaka. "The opponent being the Yankees and the fact that my teammates had already defeated them twice made me want to win even more. All I can say is that I wanted to win."

Matsuzaka had his heavy hitters to thank.

The Yankees led this game, 3-0, going into the bottom of the third. Who could have predicted how dramatically things were about to turn?

In an electrifying sequence, the Red Sox briefly turned the game into batting practice, tying a Major League record with four consecutive home runs against Yankees lefty Chase Wright, who was making his second Major League start.

Manny Ramirez put the dramatic power show in motion, hitting a towering drive over everything in left-center field and onto Lansdowne Street. Then it was J.D. Drew's turn, and he belted a blast over the Boston bullpen in right-center field and into the bleachers. Lowell put one over the wall in left to tie the game, and Jason Varitek was the fourth member of the unlikely quartet, hitting a liner into the Monster Seats to put the Sox in front in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.

"I'll tell you that I haven't been a part of anything like that," said Lowell. "Not even in Little League. I was happy that Manny got one. It looked like he was taking better swings. All right, now we're on the board, then J.D. crushes one. I just wanted to hit the ball hard and keep the momentum going. I got a hold of one, and the dugout was going crazy. It was a really cool, really unique feeling that four guys tied us up and then put us ahead. That was big."

It was the fifth time in Major League history a team hit four home runs in succession. The Dodgers, with Drew also teaming in that effort, did it last September in a pennant-race victory over the Padres.

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

But give the Yankees credit for this: The 1-2-3-4 punch didn't demoralize them.

Derek Jeter tied the game at 4 by taking Matsuzaka deep to left in the fifth inning. In the sixth, the Yankees reclaimed the lead when Melky Cabrera's 6-4-3 double-play grounder scored Robinson Cano from third base.

That wasn't going to be enough to hold down the Red Sox on a night history and fortune were both on their side.

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Junior right-hander Jared Bradford fired 7.1 innings Sunday to earn his seventh win of the season, leading LSU to a 3-1 victory over No. 15 Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field.

The win gave LSU (23-18-1, 8-9-1 SEC) its second straight SEC series victory over a Top 15 team. The Tigers won two of three games over No. 13 Ole Miss last weekend.

LSU has also won three of its last four SEC series after posting just one win in its first six league games.

Mississippi State fell to 25-10 overall and 9-7 in league play. LSU won a series in Starkville for the fourth time in its last five trips to Dudy Noble Field.

Bradford (7-2), who earned a save Saturday by pitching the final inning of LSU’s 6-5 win over the Bulldogs, threw 102 pitches on Sunday. He limited Mississippi State, which entered the game batting an SEC-best .341 on the year, to one run on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

“There’s no doubt that the most valuable player on our team is Jared Bradford,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “What a superb effort he gave us today after pitching the ninth inning yesterday. He is a great competitor with a tremendous amount of courage. I’m so proud of what he accomplished this weekend.

“I’m also very proud of our entire team. The players never got discouraged after the first game (a 12-3 MSU win on Friday); instead, they played as hard as they could and they were rewarded with two big wins.”

Bradford and Mississippi State starter Josh Johnson were locked in a scoreless duel until the top of the fourth inning when the Tigers pushed across a run.

Third baseman doubled into center field for LSU’s first hit of the game, and he moved to third base on shortstop Michael Hollander’s fly out to center. Blake Dean then grounded out to first base, scoring Jackson with the game’s first run.

Bradford kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth, when third baseman Connor Powers launched a solo shot to left field, tying the game at 1-1. The homer was Powers seventh of the season and only the second dinger allowed this year by Bradford.

LSU, however, responded with a pair of unearned runs in the seventh against reliever Aaron Weatherford. Centerfielder Jared Mitchell reached first base when shortstop Brandon Turner misplayed his grounder. First baseman Sean Ochinko sacrificed Mitchell to second base before right fielder Jason Lewis grounded to third for the second out.

Weatherford then intentionally walked leftfielder Ryan Schimpf, who with Mitchell executed a double steal, placing runners at second and third with two outs.

Second baseman Nicholas Pontiff, who had three RBI in Saturday’s win, then came up with another clutch hit, as his single up the middle scored both Mitchell and Schimpf to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead.

Bradford pitched into the eighth inning, when he finally began to show signs of fatigue. He walked centerfielder Mark Goforth to start the frame before retiring second baseman Jeffrey Rea on a grounder to third.

Mainieri elected to lift Bradford for freshman left-hander Shane Ardoin, who retired Turner on a grounder to short and catcher Edward Easley on a line drive to left to end the inning.

The Bulldogs threatened again in the ninth after Ardoin had retired the first two MSU hitters. Ardoin issued consecutive two-out walks to DH Brian LaNinfa and to pinch hitter Jet Butler before Powers singled into left field to load the bases.

Ardoin was relieved by right-hander Paul Bertuccini, who retired Goforth on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop, as Hollander flipped the ball to Pontiff to end the game.

Bertuccini earned his third save of the season. Weatherford (3-2) was charged with the loss as he allowed two unearned runs on two hits in three innings with one walk and one strikeout.

LSU 3, Mississippi State 1 (Apr 22, 2007 at Starkville, Miss.)
LSU...................... 000 100 200 - 3 4 0 (23-18-1, 8-9-1 SEC)
Mississippi State... 000 001 000 - 1 7 2 (25-10, 9-7 SEC)
Pitchers: LSU - Jared Bradford; Shane Ardoin(8); Paul Bertuccini(9).
Mississippi State -Josh Johnson; Aaron Weatherford(7).
Win-Jared Bradford(7-2) Save-Paul Bertuccini(3) Loss-Aaron Weatherford(3-2) T-2:40 A-6736
HR MS - Connor Powers (7).

Gamecocks Avoid Sweep

The brooms were ready Sunday at Oxford-University Stadium.

Ole Miss (27-15, 10-8 SEC) had a chance to sweep No. 4 South Carolina (31-10, 10-8) for the first time in program history after taking the first two games of the series in dominant fashion.

It wasn't to be, though, as the Gamecocks defeated the Rebels 11-9 in a typical Sunday slugfest in the Southeastern Conference.

The South Carolina bats finally awoke after one of the premier hitting teams in the SEC had been lulled to sleep by Rebel pitchers in both games Friday and Saturday.

Ole Miss starting pitcher Nathan Baker was the victim of an angry Gamecocks team that had nearly as many defensive errors (6) as hits (8) in the first two games.

The freshman Baker, who quietly made a name for himself in the SEC of late, was roughed-up early absorbing South Carolina's best shot in the first inning.

Gamecock batters torched Baker for five runs in the initial frame, including a homerun each from Phil Disher and Jon Willard.

The onslaught didn't stop there as South Carolina's Reese Havens homered off the lefthander to begin the second inning.

Baker was then relieved by redshirt freshman Justin Cryer.

"It's just one of those things where I think it got away from him," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "It was a difficult day to pitch; the wind was gushing out and he was facing a very good team that was locked in."

After he replaced Baker, Cryer had the best outing of his young career. He pitched the bulk of the middle innings, and, for the most part, kept South Carolina at bay while Ole Miss mounted a comeback.

Cryer scattered two hits over 5.2 innings and struckout a career-high 10 batters as the Rebels chipped away at the deficit.

"Coach Bianco just told me to keep it close and let us have a chance to win," Cryer said. "I felt like I did my best job and gave us a chance to win. We just didn't get the timely hit."

With Cryer on the mound, Ole Miss strung together a two-run inning in the second and a three-run inning in the third to pull within 9-6.

Another two-run inning for the Rebels in the bottom of the sixth made it a one-run game.

Evan Button briefly tied the score for Ole Miss in the bottom of the seventh inning with his third homerun of the season.

In the end, South Carolina managed enough timely hits to secure the victory.
The Gamecocks scored a run in both the eighth and ninth innings off Rebel reliever Cody Satterwhite, and the two runs proved too much for Ole Miss to overcome.

"That's what it felt like - like we were running up hill all day," Bianco said. "Too many runs too early.

Certainly we competed and did a good job battling back, but they were really locked in offensively and we didn't have an answer on the mound."

Although the Gamecocks saved face by taking Sunday's game, the Rebels accomplished what they set out to do this weekend by making a statement and climbing back into the SEC race.

Arkansas remains atop the overall SEC standings at 13-5, followed by Vanderbilt at 12-6.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State are in a virtual tie for second place in the West (though State is percentage points ahead because of two games being rained-out), and the two teams are tied with South Carolina and Florida for third in conference standings.

"After six weeks (of conference play) we've won four weekends and lost two, and the two were on the road," Bianco said. "There's a lot of positives. It's tough to maybe see right now, but certainly I think we're ready to make a run at it."

Friday, the Rebels defeated the Gamecocks 8-5 in a match-up of two of the SEC's top pitchers: Ole Miss' Will Kline and South Carolina's Harris Honeycutt.

Kline out-dueled Honeycutt and the Rebels scored three runs during a two-out rally to take game one.

Lance Lynn was the story of game No. 2.

The burly sophomore threw a three-hit, complete game masterpiece as the Rebels defeated the Gamecocks 6-0.

Ole Miss will next be in action Tuesday when the Rebels host Murray State at 6:30 p.m. Scott Bittle will make his first-career start on the mound in the Red and Blue.

Lynn Pitches complete game Shutout of $th Ranked South Carolina

Courtesy: University of Mississippi

Lance Lynn comes off the mound after striking out the final batter in a complete-game shutout of No. 4 USC.

OXFORD, Miss. – Sophomore right-hander Lance Lynn tossed a complete-game shutout with a career-high 12 strikeouts on Sunday to pitch No. 19 Ole Miss (27-14, 10-7 SEC) to a 6-0 win over fourth-ranked South Carolina (30-10, 9-8 SEC) on Saturday.

It was the fifth double-digit strikeout performance of the season for Lynn who tossed his second complete-game of the season. Lynn (4-3) held the Gamecocks to only three hits on the afternoon with two walks to go along with the 12 strikeouts.

Arik Hempy (3-1) suffered his first loss of the season as he gave up two runs on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 7.0 innings of work.

Logan Power led the Rebels at the plate with a 2-for-4 performance, including an RBI and a run scored as eight Rebels notched hits on the afternoon. Ole Miss out hit South Carolina 9-to-3 on the day. Zack Cozart extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a single in the first inning.

“It was great to go out and claim the series today against such a quality opponent in South Carolina,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “Lance Lynn was tremendous and that was the best stuff I have seen from him all year. We had some good at bats, but Lance was just dominant today.”

After a pitching duel through the first four and a half innings, Ole Miss got things started in the fifth with a single down the right field line from Ketchum to drive in Zach Miller from second. Miller singled up the middle before moving to second on a single through the right side from Kyle Mills. Fuller Smith then entered the game to run for Mills before Ketchum hit the chopper down the line to score Miller and move Smith to third. Brett Basham came up with a sac fly to center field to push Smith across the plate from third and gave the Rebels a 2-0 lead.

South Carolina looked to rally with two outs in the seventh when Phil Disher struck out swinging but reached base safely on a wild pitch. He then moved to second on another wild pitch before Lynn got out of the inning by getting Trent Kline to ground out to short.

The Rebels extended the lead in the eighth when Ole Miss took advantage of four hits and three Gamecock errors to move out to a 6-0 lead. Brett Basham reached on a throwing error by the third baseman before Jordan Henry laid down a bunt single and moved to third on a throwing error from the pitcher that allowed Basham to score and sparked the big inning for the Rebels.

Lynn then held the Gamecocks off the board in the top of the ninth to preserve the shutout and pickup the series clinching win for the Rebels.