It's probably not a very good omen for the Red Sox that the other three players to homer consecutively in a postseason were members of the 1997 Yankees club that lost to a World Series-bound Cleveland club. That was the combination of Tim Raines (off Eric Plunk), Derek Jeter (Plunk) and Paul O'Neill (Paul Assenmacher) in Game 1 of that AL Division Series, lost to the Indians in five. Tuesday was the first time it has happened in LCS play.
Paul Byrd took a 7-0 shutout into the inning, and had Youkilis in an 0-2 hole before his middle-in 86-mph fastball was yanked into the seats in left (and then heaved back onto the field by a fan).
"I told myself I was seeing the ball a little better," Youkilis said. "In that inning, you have to get guys on better. We were just unlucky today. We've got to come back."
Ortiz followed Youkilis to the plate and lashed a 1-2 pitch into the right-field seats for his second homer of the series, and suddenly there was a murmur at The Jake. Solo shots weren't scaring anyone, at least not yet.
Indians manager Eric Wedge replaced Byrd with Jensen Lewis, and it immediately resulted in a sensational matchup with Ramirez. It was a nine-pitch at-bat, with only a couple of offspeed pitches mixed in. Ramirez powered No. 9 over the wall in center for his second homer of the series to produce the final score.
Ramirez already had extended his LCS hitting streak to 14 games with a second-inning single, the second-longest hitting streak in LCS history, one game shy of Pete Rose (1973-83). Ramirez's homer was his 10th in LCS play, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer George Brett for the most. It was Ramirez's 24th career postseason homer, extending his own record.
He took his usual time rounding the bases, starting with a very long look from outside the batter's box, and then walking up the line with his arms characteristically extended. As he rounded first, he held one arm up right in front of Victor Martinez, who was playing first. As usual, Ramirez was not available for comment after the game.
"In a game like this, I don't really care what players do," Martinez said. "We just focus and play our game. We don't watch the other team. Whatever they want to do, they do it. We just earn respect the way we play."
Former Red Sox teammate and current Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach said of Ramirez: "He is who he is ... one of the greatest players of all-time. I guess he can do what he wants."
The sellout crowd made its feelings known about the typical Manny trot. But more importantly for them, Lewis proceeded to retire the rest of the side in order. That was it.
The three home runs in an inning tied an LCS record, the sixth time in history, and the first since Florida on Oct. 7, 2003. Lowell was a member of that club, so he had a good memory of it. But he was asked if, after Ramirez made it three in a row, he had a flashback to this past April, when the Sox hit four consecutive homers.
"Yeah, but that means I would've had to hit the fourth one. That's a little tough," said Lowell, who grounded out meekly to first that inning. "Three rockets. Manny's was unbelievable."
Ortiz and Ramirez also had gone back-to-back in Game 1 at Boston. They totaled their 11th career postseason homers with the Red Sox, establishing a team record.
"We definitely felt it at that point," Jason Varitek said of the triple-homer spurt. "It gave ourselves a new chance to try to get to the next inning. And then those things didn't happen."