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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | People Search | Personals | Travel | Yellow Pages  January 16, 2005
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Red Sox catcher sparks another fast start
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BOSTON (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals didn�t want to get beaten by Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz.

A lot of good that did them.

Boston catcher Jason Varitek tripled home the team�s two MVP candidates to give the Red Sox another early lead in their 6-2 victory over the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday night. Boston�s sixth consecutive playoff victory gave it a 2-0 lead with a chance to close out its first title since 1918.

�Jason�s had some clutch hits for us. Everybody knows that,� reliever Alan Embree said. �There�s no letdown in this lineup. You can�t go through the lineup and go, �Phew! I got past Manny,� because you�ve got Jason coming up.�

It was the second night in a row the Red Sox pounced on the Cardinals� starter in the first inning, scoring four in the first off Woody Williams and taking a 7-2 lead in Game 1. Williams and Game 2 starter Matt Morris have allowed 11 earned runs in 6 2-3 innings, an ERA of 8.15.

On Sunday, Morris pitched around Ramirez and Ortiz in the first, walking them both with two outs. That made sense: Ortiz was the MVP of the AL championship series and hit a first-inning homer off Williams in Game 1; Ramirez, who might win the regular-season MVP, had three hits Saturday night.

�We try to make sure that they have to pitch to those two guys,� said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who put Varitek fifth in the order, behind Ortiz. Varitek didn�t start Game 1 so Doug Mirabelli could catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

�The way they are approaching David Ortiz, I don�t blame them,� Francona said. �They don�t want him to beat them, and with Varitek ... swinging the bat like that gives us an added dimension, another weapon in the middle of that order.�

With Boston�s two sluggers on base, Varitek made the Cardinals pay. He hit a 1-2 pitch off the bullpen fence to the right of the 420-foot sign in Fenway�s quirky triangle and kept running, pumping his fist when he popped up at third.

�You�ve got to set the table for the big guys,� Ramirez said. �Anybody on this team can be a hero on any day.�

It was the ninth triple of Varitek�s career, and the first for the Red Sox in the postseason since Jim Rice hit one in Game 5 against the New York Mets in 1986. It was the first World Series triple for a catcher since the Yankees� Joe Girardi hit one in Game 6 of 1996.

But Varitek�s biggest contribution could be in the way he brings stability to the pitching staff.

�He�s been every bit the leader he was all season,� starter Curt Schilling said. �Jason is a guy that I feed off him when I�m out there. I know he�s putting down the fingers he believes in. I know he�s got an idea, every time, every pitch, every at-bat.

�He�s absolutely as much a part of everything that I�ve done this year as anybody on this team.�

The Red Sox made it 4-1 in the fourth when Kevin Millar was hit by a pitch and�again with two outs�Bill Mueller and Mark Bellhorn hit consecutive doubles. Morris got Johnny Damon on a groundout to end the inning but left after getting one out in the fifth.

With two outs in the sixth, Orlando Cabrera singled in two more runs to make it 6-1.

�He gives up four runs on two swings with two outs,� Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Morris. �He walked the third- and fourth-place hitters, both guys are dangerous (but he) just barely walked him.�


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