Bumbling Ramirez gives (and gives away) for Red Sox

Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2004

BOSTON He slips. He trips. He lets it rip.

That's Manny Ramirez.

Brilliant with the bat, bumbling in the field, the Red Sox outfielder was at it again for Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night when he singled three times and committed two errors in Boston's 11-9 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ramirez went 3-for-5, adding two RBIs after failing to drive in a single run in the AL championship series. But he flubbed two plays in a row to allow St. Louis to tie the game in the eighth inning before Mark Bellhorn's two-run homer won it in the bottom half.

''He just downgraded himself from a silver (glove) to a bronze to a green,'' outfielder Dave Roberts said. ''It's funny to laugh at after you win.''

A gold glove, Ramirez never had. But Saturday's play in the field bordered on slapstick, and it wasn't just him.

Kevin Millar and Bronson Arroyo also committed errors for the Red Sox, who led the AL in unearned runs during the regular season. Boston is the seventh team to commit four or more errors in the first game of the World Series and the first to win the game anyway.

''The errors cost us five or six runs tonight,'' designated hitter David Ortiz said. ''We've been playing great defense, so I can't tell you what that happened. But they're too good a team to do that and expect to win.''

With the Red Sox leading 9-7, one out and runners on first and second in the eighth, Edgar Renteria singled to left for the Cardinals. Ramirez charged the ball but overran it, allowing Jason Marquis to score.

Larry Walker followed with a fly ball to left. Ramirez slid while trying to make a catch when he probably could have caught it standing up. His spike got caught in the grass, the ball bounced off his shoulder and Ramirez kicked up a divot while toppling over.

''I shouldn't have dove for the ball. If I don't, I catch it,'' Ramirez said. ''I know I'm the champ and can go out there and do the job. Once you think like that, the rest is easy.''

His second error allowed Roger Cedeno to score the tying run, put Renteria on third and Walker on second. After Keith Foulke intentionally walked Albert Pujols to load the bases, he got Scott Rolen to pop out to third and Jim Edmonds on a called third strike to end the inning.

''That was not an instructional video. ... That was a little rough,'' Boston manager Terry Francona said. ''I walked out there through the outfield and about twisted an ankle where Manny had his divot. We did some things wrong, but we persevered and we won.''

Ramirez has always been a trade-off, for the Red Sox and the Indians before them. His hitting is unmatched, but his fielding has been a liability and his attitude can also frustrate fans and managers.

Though he comes across as lazy or uncaring, Ramirez is actually more quirky than anything else. He has forgotten to run out ground balls, cut off throws from other outfielders and once, in a Triple-A rehab start, delayed a game to look for a diamond earring he lost while sliding.

But Ramirez's teammates defend him and say, ''That's Manny.''

''I don't look at Manny as a trade-off. I look at him as one of the best offensive guys in the game,'' general manager Theo Epstein said. ''He's worked hard on his defense to help the team there as well.''

Ramirez was 5-for-13 with seven RBIs in the first-round series against Oakland. When the Red Sox played the Yankees for the pennant, though, Ramirez didn't drive in a single run in seven games.

He is just the second No. 3, 4 or 5 hitter to play a seven-game league championship series and fail to drive in a run. Barry Bonds, who batted fifth for Pittsburgh in 1991, was the other.

It's not that Ramirez wasn't swinging the bat well he's had at least one hit in every game of the playoffs. But in the early part of the ALCS, Johnny Damon and Bellhorn weren't getting on base in front of him.

Now Damon, Bellhorn and Ramirez are all hitting.

And in the field, Ramirez is giving some of it back.

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