The power drought had dragged on and on for Renteria and then he lifted it with one clutch swing that sent him on a home run trot to savor. Renteria had gone 199 at-bats without a home run since last going deep at Cleveland against Cliff Lee on June 22. In other words, Renteria ended his unenviable dry spell a mere one day shy of what would have been his two-month anniversary since his last roundtripper.
"About time," said Renteria, who teed of on a meaty fastball, high and inside from Byrd. "It was a good one, too. It feels good because we won the game, that's most important. "
Then came perhaps the unlikeliest bunter in the Major Leagues. David Ortiz is not an American League MVP candidate for his ability to play small ball. But the big DH strode to the plate following Renteria's blast and figured he'd change his luck after delivering one hit in his first 15 at-bats of the series.
The bunt busted the Angels shift, giving third baseman Chone Figgins no chance to get the chugging Ortiz at first. You can be sure this was no dugout audible from Francona.
"That would definitely be his [idea]. That's what you call setting the table for the big boys," said Francona. "I'll tell you what, that was interesting. Watching him run to first there ... those arms were swinging. You know what, we're just trying to generate runs and be better than the other team. They take so much of the field away. We don't want him to have 30 bunt hits a year, but in that situation, it let Manny hit."
And Manny Ramirez didn't just hit. He unloaded with a two-run homer to right-center off Brendan Donnelly, No. 33 on the season for the All-Star slugger.
When was Ortiz's last bunt?
"Never," quipped Ortiz. "Well, I did one time in winter ball, but I was playing Rookie League ball back then. These guys have been pitching me [on the] black the whole series, so I was like, 'It's time to get a hit.' "
And then came Ramirez. Any fear that he injured himself while making a tremendous catch against the wall to rob Casey Kotchman earlier in the game was lifted by his latest big home run.
The hitting heroics stood out, but so did several other elements of this win by the Red Sox.
Rookie Jonathan Papelbon fired 5 2/3 shutout innings in his third Major League start. And even if it does seem all but a slam dunk that he'll be headed to the bullpen later this week, Papelbon (2.25 ERA) has proven he can get big outs during a pennant race. The Red Sox have won all of Papelbon's starts, though the righty only has three no-decisions to show for it.
"Right now I think I'm going to be going back in the bullpen," said Papelbon. "But who knows? With everything going on with this team right now, I can't say specifically what I'm going to do. I'm here to stay hopefully and help this team win. That's all I want to do."
He has no bigger believer than Curt Schilling, who survived a hairy ninth inning (three hits, one run) in his final appearance before moving back to the rotation.
"There's nothing that doesn't impress me from stuff to makeup to poise to command. All of it," Schilling said of Papelbon. "He's as advertised. He's as good a kid off the field as he is on right now, too."
After Papelbon's exit, Mike Myers retired the only batter he faced to end the sixth. On came Mike Timlin, who was flawless over two innings.
Schilling opened the ninth by giving up consecutive singles. Former teammate Steve Finley -- they played on the 2001 World Series champion Diamondbacks -- raked an RBI double to spoil Boston's shutout bid. Then Tony Graffanino made a huge catch, roaming into short right-center against Adam Kennedy, bobbling the ball from his glove to his arm, and finally back to the glove for an adventurous out.
"I was just hoping that Johnny [Damon] or Gabe [Kapler] was going to call me off so I could get out of the way," said Graffanino. "But I never heard, so I had to keep going. It hit my glove and then I just tried to pick it back up. I was able to catch it."
He had plenty of support from those looking on from the dugout.
"I was trying to catch it with him," said Francona. "When that ball left his glove, we were trying to help him. I saw it hit everything. Just trying to help that go back in his glove."
Chone Figgins ended the game with a flyout to center, giving the Red Sox a satisfying victory.
For Renteria, it was particularly enjoyable. Especially after Juan Rivera skied to the wall on Friday to rob Renteria of extra bases, if not a home run.
"I thought it was kind of appropriate," Francona said. "He hit some balls to right in Detroit and he hit a ball here that was borderline going out, and he finally got enough of one to get it out of here, obviously in a part of a game where we're dying to get a hit. I thought that was great."