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Living the Millar High Life

By Phil Janowicz

COLUMNIST

The search for the Red Sox version of the Rally Monkey is over. In the middle of the 9th inning of Saturday’s game against the Mariners, an old teenage home video of Kevin Millar appeared on the Jumbo-tron. To the amusement of everyone in the park, Kevin “Bruce” Millar danced around singing “Born in the USA.”

One inning and several pelvic thrusts later, the real life “Rally Karaoke Guy” came to the plate with two outs and Damian Jackson on first. Millar launched a shot to deep center field that hit Mike Cameron’s glove and bounced out, giving the Sox a 7-6 win in 10 innings. The winning double capped off a three for six day for Millar, which included his third stolen base of the season.

As is the case for most offensive games, the starting pitching of Freddy “The Rock” Garcia was quite offensive. During his five innings, Garcia gave up six hits, four earned runs, four strikeouts, six walks, and back-to-back solo home runs to Trot Nixon and Bill Mueller. Garcia just couldn’t seem to find the strike zone, throwing 108 pitches through five innings and walking Manny three times, but luckily for him, only one time did a walk come around to score.

John Burkett pitched just a little bit better than Garcia, going six innings giving up eight hits, five earned runs, one walk, and five strikeouts. Throughout the season, Burkett has a .248 average when bases are empty and above .300 with runners on, and Saturday he stayed true to form. With the bases empty, Burkett’s average was .200, but with runners on, it was a high .625. When the Mariners scored runs, they scored them in bunches, nabbing three in the second inning and two in the fourth.

Also, the relief pitching and managerial decisions made by Seattle were quite suspect, but those cannot be attributed to Bob Melvin. In the top of the fourth, Melvin argued a called strike from the dugout and was immediately tossed by home plate umpire Jim Wolf. Melvin complained that Wolf was calling a strike zone that was too wide, but the pitch in question was quite clearly a strike from all replays.

The most suspect managerial decision occurred in the middle of the seventh inning. With two outs, Millar on second, and Mueller on first, bench coach Rene Lachemann opted to lift hard-throwing righty Rafael Soriano for hard-throwing righty and late-game flop Armando Benitez. Sure, Soriano had given up a game-tying home run to David Ortiz and put runners on first and second, but his season ERA is just a hair above 1. Benitez has a propensity to lose games at crucial moments, and even the fans in right field knew that as they cheered wildly when Benitez ran in from the bullpen.

When Benitez came in, he promptly gave up a go-ahead single to Jason Varitek, allowing one of his inherited runners to score. If Melvin had still been in the dugout, Benitez probably still would have been seated in the bullpen.

The Sox had bullpen problems of their own with Byung-Hyun Kim in the ninth. Clinging to a 6-5 lead, Kim had a 1-2 count with two outs and no one on base on number nine hitter Mark McLemore when he hit a shot to right field. Trot Nixon started to come in, lost the ball in the sun, and then attempted to make a diving catch behind him. McLemore landed on second with a questionable double. Then, Kim had a 1-2 count on Mike Cameron when he hit a single up the middle, scoring McLemore to give Kim his third blown save of the season. Luckily, the rally was about to begin.

The former “Rally Monkey” for the Sox was “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning, but now the Sox have decided that Neil Diamond would better be suited to be the set-up man for Millar and Springsteen. Hopefully, when the E Street Band comes to play at Fenway on Sept. 6, fans will be shown Kevin Millar’s rendition of the Boss during the warmup.