Sox quartet contributes in victory
Fearsome foursome helps AL earn home field in Fall Classic
DETROIT -- If the Red Sox can make it to the World Series for the second consecutive October, they will once again have players on their own team to thank for opening that Fall Classic at Fenway Park.
Johnny Damon, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Matt Clement all had a hand in helping the American League to an 7-5 victory, which secured home field for the American League in the World Series.
Damon (1-for-2) did what Red Sox fans have seen all year, jump-starting a rally in the third inning by leading off with an infield hit to shortstop against Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt. And after Alex Rodriguez walked, Ortiz executed something Sox fans are just as familiar with, raking an RBI single to right that scored Damon.
"Well, it was a good showing for us," said Damon. "Terry [Francona] got a good win, so home-field advantage is back in the American League. That definitely sits well with us, and if not us, another team is going to benefit."
The last time Damon made the All-Star team was 2002, when he was the Final Vote winner on MLB.com. This time, he was part of the starting nine, giving him more of an opportunity to relish the evening.
"Oh, it was pretty amazing just being on the field with all of those great players. We jumped out to a nice lead," said Damon. "But just to see how each player approaches the game, that's something that's very special and it's something that I'm always going to remember."
By now, Damon knows all about Ortiz's approach. And Boston's big lefty masher, went 2-for-3 and his lone out was a flyout to the warning track in left.
"We have a lot of good players out there and have a good offense," said Ortiz, who could have been talking about the Red Sox or the AL All-Stars. "Everyone played hard and everyone played to win."
Sox catcher Varitek, who always plays to win, caught the first five innings, the last of which was a scoreless frame by teammate Clement.
The National League didn't score during Varitek's time behind the plate. Varitek also contributed with his bat, producing an infield hit, drawing a walk and scoring a run.
"It was fun, it was a lot of fun," Varitek said. "It was rather different for me because you have to catch a different guy almost every inning, almost. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of fun to see them behind the plate as opposed to hitting against some of those guys."
And Varitek didn't have to stretch his memory bank very far to realize that, yes, the win could very well become important at a late date this autumn.
"Yeah, definitely, having won a World Series last year and knowing the start we got off to at home, how that makes a difference in the style of difference that we're used to playing. I think that's big," Varitek said. "It doesn't mean everything, but it does give you a little bit of an advantage."
Manny Ramirez was the one Sox player who didn't have much fortune. He grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in his first at-bat, stranding two baserunners in the process, and struck out in his second at-bat.
Last year, Ortiz and Ramirez both homered in the All-Star Game, helping to secure the World Series home-field advantage for the Sox, which certainly didn't hurt Boston's cause in sweeping St. Louis.
Francona and the five Sox players who participated Tuesday night hope there will be a similar dividend to reap in three months.
"That keeps us where we want to be, right?" said Ortiz.
The rhetorical question did not need an answer. The Sox have a 2004 World Series championship flag hanging at Fenway Park to demonstrate the potential value of home field in the World Series.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.