Stayin' Alive

Manny Ramirez cared - that his drive to center field became a single instead of a home run.

A day after he created a ruckus with remarks that winning the AL championship series didn't mean everything, Boston's laid-back cleanup hitter put up an argument with umpires - an unsuccessful one.

Ramirez wound up with a 390-foot single instead of a two-run homer, but it turned out to be not so big a deal. The Red Sox beat Cleveland 7-1 Thursday night, closing to 3-2 and sending the best-of-seven series back to Boston for Game 6 on Saturday night.

Some fans in Fenway Park might boo him for his casual comments in a rare clubhouse interview on Wednesday's workout day - and for his failure to run hard out of the batter's box on his drive in Game 5.

``It doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like it's the end of the world,'' he said then.

More likely, the Red Sox faithful will cheer his outstanding postseason play - a .471 batting average with two homers and eight RBIs.

``We've got nothing to lose,'' Ramirez said after Thursday's win. ``No pressure man. Like I say, we play hard. We try to leave everything on the field.''

More than two hours before the game, manager Terry Francona brushed off the words of the seemingly pressure-proof Ramirez.

``I have a pretty good feeling that it's Manny saying, `Hey, we're fine,''' Francona said, ``because a guy that shows up after getting in at 5 o'clock in the morning to hit, those actions are what I care about.''

Francona said Ramirez's words ``won't have any difference in the outcome.''

On Wednesday, Ramirez raised his arms like a boxer who delivered the knockout blow when he homered to cut Boston's deficit to four runs. On Thursday, he started jogging to first base in the third inning when he sent C.C. Sabathia's pitch toward the center-field wall.

Grady Sizemore leaped, and the ball appeared to hit the yellow line on top of the 9-foot high wall - or perhaps before bouncing back onto the field. Right-field umpire Paul Emmel never gave the home run signal, and replays were inconclusive. Ground rules at Jacobs Field state a ball must completely clear the yellow line at the top of the wall to be a homer.

``I thought it was out,'' Ramirez said, ``but what can I say?''

David Ortiz, who had walked, scored easily on the play for a 2-1 lead. Ramirez gestured in disagreement with the umpires' decision. He was joined by Francona and first-base coach Luis Alicea.

``We had privy to seeing the replay right away and we knew before they made their decision that the ball was a homer, but after that we had to lower our blood pressure and play the game,'' Boston's Jason Varitek said.

The call stood and Sabathia stranded Ramirez by striking out Mike Lowell.

``I just want him to run when he hits one 380 feet so I can get the RBI,'' Lowell said. ``As long as he keeps hitting the way he has, he can stand on his head and do whatever he wants.''

Still, Cleveland first baseman Ryan Garko had a question for Ramirez.

``I asked him, 'Manny, why aren't you on second?' He said he thought Grady caught it. We've all been there,'' Garko said.

Ramirez was in the spotlight from the first inning on Thursday. He doubled to left-center, tying Pete Rose's LCS record of hitting in 15 consecutive games. Then Lowell hit a soft single to right, and third base coach DeMarlo Hale energetically waved Ramirez home.

Ramirez's lack of speed was no match for Franklin Gutierrez's powerful arm, and Ramirez was out by several feet.

Asked what happened, Manny was Manny again. He smiled, said nothing and walked away.

Still, he's been Boston's best hitter in the playoffs.

``It was key that Manny had some success early,'' Varitek said. ``You give a great hitter confidence, it means a lot.''

by: Staff Writers – Email Us

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