Manny Being Manny!

BOSTON—Terry Francona puts up with a lot of "Manny Being Manny" moments, but even he can barely hide his disgust when Ramirez punctuates his home runs by raising his arms, a la Rocky Balboa atop the museum steps in Philadelphia, and standing still at home plate until after the ball has cleared the wall.

"I actually thought maybe we won the World Series," Francona said after Ramirez struck such a pose following a homer last Sept. 30, when the Sox were long out of the race.

The Red Sox didn't win the World Series early this morning, but you can bet Francona didn't mind the admiring pose struck by Ramirez after he delivered one of the biggest blasts of his career to give the Sox a commanding lead in the AL Division Series.

Ramirez crushed a Francisco Rodriguez offering well beyond the Green Monster seats with two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Sox a 6-3 win in Game Two of the ALDS in front of a sellout crowd of 37,706. The Sox lead the best-of-five series two games to none and will go for the sweep Sunday, when Curt Schilling opposes Jered Weaver in Anaheim.

"Come on," said David Ortiz, who knows a thing or two about hitting game-winning homers in playoff games at Fenway Park and was intentionally walked immediately prior to Ramirez' blast. "Manny might have hit a car on the highway."

"I think I was just in amazement before I really realized that the game was over," said Mike Lowell, who was on deck. "I mean, obviously, I knew the game was over.

"He crushed that ball," said Lowell, who somehow made "crushed" into a three-syllable word in order to convey his astonishment. "He crushed it. It's unbelievable. It's one of the best bullets I've seen here. Situation and everything, that was pretty unbelievable."

Ramirez stood and admired his homer for so long that the first person to congratulate him along the first base line was winning pitcher Jonathan Papelbon. As he neared the scrum of waiting teammates at home plate, Ramirez first jumped into the arms of Ortiz before he touched the plate.

Afterward, the famously shy Ramirez appeared in the interview room, where he spoke publicly for the first time all season. "One of the best feelings ever," said Ramirez, who called himself a "bad man" twice. "I never look for pitches. I always trust myself. In that situation, [Rodriguez] got me out so many times. But baseball's like that. Sometimes you get me, sometimes I get you. And I got him at the right time."

It was certainly the right time for the Sox and Francona, who seemed to deploy the bullpen with a particularly urgent touch Friday. He pulled starter Daisuke Matsuzaka after 4 2/3 ineffective innings (three runs on seven hits and three walks) and mixed and matched Javier Lopez (one-third of an inning), Manny Delcarmen (1 1/3 innings), Hideki Okajima (1 1/3 innings) and Papelbon (1 1/3 innings) through 4 1/3 hitless frames.

It was the first appearance of more than three outs for Okajima since Aug. 17, a span of 12 outings, and only the fifth time in 60 appearances Papelbon has thrown more than an inning—and the first time since Aug. 21.

"We accomplished what we set out to do today, and it wasn't very easy," Francona said. "We got to our bullpen probably a lot earlier than we would have liked. But everybody in the bullpen…Javy gets an out, but then Delcarmen kind of allows us to catch up. He gets a bunch of outs where all of a sudden we can get to ‘Oki,' we can get to ‘Pap' not too early.

"Our bullpen was outstanding...gave us a chance."

And it gave Ramirez one more chance to haunt the Angels, who walked Ortiz in his final four at-bats in order to face Ramirez, who was 0-for-2 with two walks before his blast.

"It was a great swing," Francona said. "But I think part of the reason he got a chance to swing was because David's such a good hitter and such a clutch hitter. It's hard to let David beat you.

"But Manny's such a good hitter behind him. He made them pay."

And then he got his money's worth.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.

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