July 23rd: Nomar Stings the Rays
Red Sox 22 – Rays 4
Before Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were launching balls all over Fenway Park, it was Nomar Garciaparra who was the face of the Red Sox offense. From 1997 to 2003, Garciaparra hit an outstanding .325, won two batting titles, and made five All-Star teams. With his quirky pre-at-bat routines and awesome hitting ability, Nomar was beloved among Red Sox fans.
Like Pedro Martinez, Garciaparra was coming off a lost 2001 season. A broken wrist in spring training limited him to just 21 games all year. He returned with a vengeance in 2002, batting .310 with 24 home runs, 120 RBIs, and a league-leading 56 doubles. His best day was undoubtedly July 23, when he smacked three home runs and drove in eight runs as part of a 22-4 Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The Red Sox actually got off to a rocky start in this affair, and the Rays jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead-off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. That’s where the score stood in the bottom of the third, where the Red Sox offense exploded. Johnny Damon led off the inning with a solo shot, and, after a Trot Nixon single, Manny Ramirez and Garciaparra followed with home runs of their own to tie the score at four.
The Red Sox were not nearly done annihilating Rays starting pitcher Tanyon Sturze. Back-to-back doubles by Trot Nixon and backup catcher Doug Mirabelli made the score 7-4, and an RBI single by Damon chased Sturze from the game.
Brandon Backe gave in to put out the fire, but the result was more of the same. Garciaparra’s second home run of the inning over the Green Monster made it an even ten runs for the home team in the bottom of the fourth.
Garciaparra would not have to wait long for his next opportunity. With two more runs in and the bases juiced, Garciaparra stepped to the plate in the fifth looking for his third home run in two innings. He deposited the 2-2 pitch over the Monster again, giving him eight RBIs on the day and extending the Red Sox lead to the eight.
The Red Sox offense kept rolling until the very last out, as Ramirez’s second home run of the game, a three-run shot in the eighth inning, sealed the 22-4 victory. In unquestionably the best offensive output of the year, the Red Sox set season highs in runs (22), hits (19), and home runs (7). For a team that had gone a mediocre 17-22 since June 6, this performance was a welcome breath of fresh air.