BOSTON -- There was juice flowing in Boston Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski’s stride as he made his way through the cramped clubhouse following a thrilling win in a hostile atmosphere, doling out compliments aplenty.
He saved his biggest kudos for the night’s brightest star, reaching his arm over a three-rows-deep phalanx of media gathered around the stanchion in the middle of the room and extending a handshake to a beaming Hanley Ramirez.
“La Guante de Oro,” Dombrowski said in perfectly articulated Spanish, repeating the phrase -- translated to English as “Gold Glove” -- for emphasis.
At the outset, this was supposed to be a night of getting a first glimpse -- a debut from a recently acquired All-Star having the best season of his career who had suddenly been saddled with expectations to shore up a sagging staff. Instead, newly added Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz’s good start to the night finished up in smoke when he was chased from the game in the fourth inning after surrendering five runs.
This became a night full of bailouts from the sometimes cartoonishly jovial first baseman, a night when thousands of orange-clad San Francisco Giants fans chanted en masse all night long to augment a postseason-like atmosphere at Fenway Park. It was a career night that Ramirez very well may never replicate in his major league career.
That “Guante de Oro” at first base only tells part of the story, though it was a thick chapter and one that left the front of Ramirez's uniform caked from chest to kneecaps with dirt from the quick-twitched dives he made for outs.
No snare was bigger than the one he made in the top of the sixth to rescue reliever Matt Barnes, who entered the game with the bases loaded and nobody out. Cradling a chopper to his left, Ramirez retired Gregor Blanco at first, then lasered a perfect throw home to Sandy Leon, who spun for a back-shoulder tag of Brandon Belt just in time for an out that was upheld after Giants manager Bruce Bochy's challenge.
The next at-bat, Ramirez easily hauled in a pop fly in foul territory from pinch hitter Conor Gillaspie to end the inning, letting out a roar as the crowd approved.
“It was unbelievable. Everything went right,” Ramirez said of the double play.
At the plate, it was the first three-homer game of Ramirez’s career -- each one going to a different part of the park -- for the most RBIs (six) he has produced in a game. Ramirez got the Red Sox out to a big lead starting in the bottom of the second with one of those no-doubters, a sure thing coming off the barrel as he turned on a 92-mph four-seamer from Matt Cain and watched it go opposite-field into the home bullpen. That shot was upstaged two at-bats later by a Travis Shaw dinger that carried a handful of rows into the right-field bleachers.
The next inning, Ramirez held his follow-through as he jumped on another Cain four-seamer, trotting ever-so-slowly the way another certain Red Sox player named Ramirez used to, as it landed softly onto the platform holding the American flag over the 379-foot sign in left-center field.
Ramirez even stared down Giants reliever Albert Suarez after being plunked in the fifth, offering some choice words as he took his base.
“I get so angry. Sometimes Hanley is not Hanley. It's somebody else,” Ramirez said of the exchange afterward.
In a follow-up question, a reporter told him lip-readers would suggest he told Suarez, “I’ll get you back,” to which Ramirez let out an extended laugh.
“Don’t ask me that, it’s a secret,” he said with a smile. “I’ll tell you later.”
Sure enough, Ramirez did get Suarez back. With the Giants mounting a furious comeback, reducing an 8-0 lead to a slim one-run margin, Ramirez came to the plate in the sixth and connected against his newfound nemesis, hammering a long fly to left off Suarez. He hurried up the first-base line watching the ball intently as it lipped just over the Green Monster, into the first row of seats hugging the left-field foul pole, to give the Red Sox all the cushion they’d need with his third homer of the night.
So it was no surprise when, in his last at-bat in the eighth, Ramirez was given a standing ovation, some fans chanting his name, as he stepped into the batter’s box. They showered him with another big ovation as he returned to the dugout following a weak groundout.
That had to be an improbable sight to take in for anyone who sat in those very seats a year ago, watching an aloof Ramirez pout and stumble his way to a blooper-reel season in left field.
“I think it goes back to the work he put in in the offseason. He got himself into great shape, one of the main reasons why he’s been able to endure the regular games played,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s adapted to first base seamlessly. I think he’s having a lot of fun being back in the infield, back on a unit as opposed to left field. He’s giving us everything he’s got.”
Whatever language you want to chalk it up in, this was a gold-standard kind of night.
There were plenty of people in good moods around the clubhouse, and for good reason. With the win, and the Baltimore Orioles' corresponding loss to the New York Yankees, the Red Sox pulled back into sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since June 4.