Unlikely heroes Ciriaco, Gomez lift Sox
July, 8, 2012
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- They come from the same lineage that produced such names as Pemberton and Gubanich, Navarro and Crespo, Malave and Alcantara.
They ply their trade in Pawtucket, have spent much of their baseball lives in similar minor league outposts, and seldom see their names in headlines, only in the small print in which baseball conducts its most ordinary of transactions. They occasionally dazzle in spring training, then typically fade from sight, their exploits obscured by the drumbeats that accompany an organization's most favored prospects.
When they make it to the big leagues -- if they do -- it is usually for only a few days, a couple of weeks, a handful of games, at-bats, putouts and assists -- before their services are no longer required, the exigencies of the moment met.
But then there are those rare nights -- like Saturday in Fenway Park -- when their disbelieving ears hear an entire ballpark chanting their names ("Pedro, Pedro, Pedro"), and their grateful eyes take in the sight of people, most of whom may not have known their names, standing in appreciation of their skills.
And, on those rarest of nights, it happens in the midst of Yankees-Red Sox, when the Jeters and Ortizes, A-Rods and A-Gonzes, step back and yield to the likes of Mauro Gomez and Pedro Ciriaco, two kick-abouts who turned a rivalry inside out with their splendid play.
With the Yankees threatening to make it three straight over the Sox and take a double-digit advantage over Boston in the AL East, Gomez and Ciriaco, two minor league free agents who were not on the big league roster this spring, combined talents to spark a 9-5 Sox win Saturday night.
"I love seeing that," said Cody Ross, who was on second in the sixth inning when Ciriaco hit a bases-loaded double that cleared the bases and gave the Sox their first lead in a day-night doubleheader in which the Sox lost the first game 6-1. "I came up as an underdog, I like seeing the guys who weren't really expected to be contributing major leaguers, come up and do what they're doing. It makes me smile."
Gomez, a 27-year-old Dominican with 10 seasons in the minors playing in his sixth big league game, more than atoned for a double error in the Yankees' three-run first with three hits, including two doubles, and two runs scored. In the first three games of this series, he has seven hits and has knocked in three runs.
"I believe in him as a hitter," manager Bobby Valentine said of Gomez, who began his career as a third baseman, made 31 errors in 71 games, and has spent this season playing either first or DHing for Pawtucket, though he has been working out at third.
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesMauro Gomez scores the third run on Pedro Ciriaco's bases-clearing double in the sixth inning to give the Sox a 5-3 lead.
"I don't know that he's going to be our everyday third baseman because Will [Middlebrooks] is coming back. The little we saw of him in spring training, and following reports and seeing what Arnie [Beyeler, the Pawtucket manager] and Triple-A staff say about him, he's a hitter. And it's good to have hitters."
But the marquee billing went to Ciriaco, a 26-year-old Dominican who like Gomez is on his third big league organization and had played in just a handful of games (31) with the Pirates the past two seasons before making his Red Sox debut here in the first game Saturday.
Ciriaco, summoned after Dustin Pedroia went on the disabled list and Will Middlebrooks was idled with a sore hamstring, laid down a perfect bunt to set up a run in the third; singled and scored in the fifth; hit his three-run double in the sixth; and doubled in a run, stole third, and scored Boston's final run on another error. He also turned a terrific play in the hole at short.
"I think he's a nice player," Valentine said after the Sox put an end to their five-game losing streak and remained a game over .500. "He played so well for us in spring training, doing for us what he did tonight. Being able to steal a base, bunt for a base hit, swings the bat, play exciting defense -- he did all those things tonight. I don't know if he can do it every day on the major league level, but it's nice, a breath of fresh air."
The big boys did their part, too -- Adrian Gonzalez had three hits, including two doubles, to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 18 games and scored twice, while the newly activated Ryan Sweeney tripled to the center-field triangle, driving in a run and scoring another. And pitcher Felix Doubront recovered from Mark Teixeira's three-run home run in the first to hold the Yankees scoreless until Andruw Jones homered to open the seventh.
"He was determined," Valentine said of the left-hander. "I talked to him and said, 'You know we're
going to score runs. If you want to win, just hold 'em.' We scored runs and he wanted to win, and he held 'em."
But by night's end, fans were chanting the slender Ciriaco's name ("Amazing," he said) and rewarded him with a clamorous standing ovation before his last at-bat.
"It's a wonderful baseball moment," Valentine said. "I can guarantee you most people who came to the ballpark, they were not carrying his baseball card."
Meanwhile, Gomez, who had heard catcalls after his error total climbed to three in the doubleheader, also received his due from the crowd when he was lifted for a pinch runner after his seventh-inning double.
How do the Sox find the likes of Ciriaco and Gomez? In this case, the same man -- Jared Porter, the team's director of professional scouting -- can take a bow. The Sox signed both players on his recommendation.
If form holds, neither will have a prolonged stay, a return to obscurity just one roster option away.
But on a night when the Yankees were poised to apply another blow to a reeling rival, Valentine instead was able to register his first win against the pinstripers as Sox manager.
"They can come up and be that fire we need," Ross said. "Pedroia goes down, a team sometimes can get down on that. He's a star player, you miss that energy. But when you get a guy like Ciriaco and Gomez do what they've done, it gives you life, it gives you excitement. You can feed off that."