With great anticipation, the Boston Red Sox will open the 2011 season this afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington against the 2010 American League Champion Texas Rangers. The revamped Sox, who last season missed the playoffs for only the second time under manager Terry Francona, have the baseball world abuzz as they are considered the pre-season favorite by many, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sportsline, FOX Sports, and The Hardball Times, to win the World Series this fall.
Besides winning the final game of a home series against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park this afternoon, 11-8, to complete a four-game sweep, the game also featured grand slams from Boston Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew and third baseman Mike Lowell in the second and sixth innings, respectively. Drew’s home run came after Manny Ramirez, Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis hit consecutive singles off starter Brian Bannister, his third career grand slam. Lowell’s base-clearing blast came with two outs after the Royals intentionally walked a struggling Ramirez, who remains stuck on 498 career home runs; it was Lowell’s sixth career slam and his third since joining Boston.
It marked the first time since 2003 that the Red Sox hit two grand slams in a single game when Bill Mueller hit grand slams from both sides of the plate on 29 July, the first player in major league history to accomplish the feat. The last time two separate Boston players hit grand slams in the same game was in 1995 when former infielder John Valentin and first baseman Mo Vaughn did it on the road at Yankee Stadium on 02 May, accounting for the only runs in an 8-0 shutout of New York. The last time it happened at Fenway was nearly 24 years ago when Bill Buckner and Tony Armas each hit one off Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris in the first and second inning, respectively, of a 12-7 win.
Down three games to one against Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox stormed back by outscoring the Indians 30-5 over the last three games of the series to win the American League Championship in seven games and give the club its second AL pennant in four years. Series MVP and Red Sox ace pitcher Josh Beckett got the comeback started last Thursday, going eight strong and giving up just one run on five hits while striking out 11, while first baseman Kevin Youkilis opened the game with a solo home run and drove home two more runs in an impressive 7-1 win. Then, in Game Six, outfielder J.D. Drew redeemed himself from a sub-par first season in Boston by hitting a crowd-pleasing grand slam with two outs in the opening frame; the Red Sox never looked back, scoring seven runs off Fuasto Carmona in two-plus innings of work to easily win 12-2 and even the series at three games each.
In the deciding Game Seven Sunday night, Boston took a quick 3-0 lead after three but led by just one run in the seventh. Cleveland appeared to have a shot at tying the score with runners at first and third with one out but, after speedy Indians outfielder Kenny Loften was held by third-base coach Joel Skinner on what seemed like a guaranteed run-producing single by Franklin Gutierrez, Red Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima, in relief of start Daisuke Matsuzaka, got third baseman Casey Blake to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat. Rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia then hit a two-run shot off reliever Rafael Betancourt in the bottom of the frame and helped blow the game open in the eighth with a bases-clearing double as the Red Sox took the final game by a score of 11-2. Boston now faces the National League champion Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series, beginning with Game One Wednesday night at Fenway Park, with a shot at winning its second title in four years after going 86 years between championships.
With two outs in the third inning of tonight’s game versus the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox stroked four consecutive home runs for the first time in franchise history. Manny Ramirez started the fireworks with a shot over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, his second of the season, and J.D. Drew followed with his second round-tripper to the right-field bleachers. Mike Lowell then socked his second of the year, again over the Green Monster, and Jason Varitek completed the feat with a shot into the Monster Seats, his second of the season and of the series with Boston’s American League East rival. All four home runs came off of Yankees rookie pitcher Chase Wright and turned a 3-0 New York advantage into a 4-3 Boston lead.
From the MLB.com release :
The Red Sox became the fifth team in Major League history to hit four home runs in a row. The [Los Angeles] Dodgers did it last September 18th in a key pennant-race game against the Padres to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. Drew, with the Dodgers last year, was also involved in that quartet…. It marked the 10th time in Red Sox history that they’ve hit four home runs in one inning, tying a club record.
After 13 seasons with the Red Sox organization, free agent outfielder Trot Nixon, who was not offered arbitration by the team in December, signed a one-year deal worth $3 million to start fresh in Cleveland and will wear number 33 with the Indians. Drafted out of high school by the Red Sox in 1993, Nixon was known for his hard-nose style of play, noted by the batting helmet he often wore that was covered in dirt and pine tar; although not as flashy as some of his teammates, he earned the respect of the Boston faithful and the distinction of being one of the team’s original “Dirt Dogs.”
After two quick cups of coffee, his first full season with the Red Sox came in 1999; early on, it appeared as though he would return to the minors when he started out of the gate barely hitting above .100. However, he recovered well enough to finish with a .270 batting average, 15 home runs, and 52 RBI. In ten seasons with Boston, Nixon batted .278, hit 133 home runs, and drove in 523 runs while managing a .366 on-base percentage. He also became a master of Fenway’s often-tricky right field and managed a .984 fielding percentage in that position for most of his time in Boston.
Among his highlights with the Red Sox included a two-run home run in the top of the ninth at Yankee Stadium on 30 May 2000 in a duel between then-teammate Pedro Martinez and ex-Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens; those two runs were the difference in an eventual 2-0 win for Boston. He also drove home the final two runs for Boston in the deciding Game Four of the 2004 World Series on a two-out double off the right field wall at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in the top of the third inning to give Boston a 3-0 lead. Those also proved to be the last runs scored by either team in that game as the Red Sox swept the Cardinals for the team’s first championship title in 86 years. For the series, Nixon batted .357 and drove in three runs after spending most of the regular season nursing injuries.
With Boston expected to announce the signing of outfielder J.D. Drew in the near future, Nixon’s departure was not unexpected, given that he would likely end up sharing a bench role with Wily Mo Pena, eight years his junior and also seen as a back-up first baseman to Kevin Youkilis.