Boston hitters exhibit prowess

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BOSTON - Every time you looked, it seemed a Red Sox hitter was on base in the opener of the American League Championship Series. And it wasn't just David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

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Josh Beckett shut down Cleveland despite giving up an early home run.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Josh Beckett shut down Cleveland despite giving up an early home run.

They reached base every time they batted Friday night, but every other starter got aboard - and all of them made it at least to second base.

There are no easy outs in Boston's lineup, certainly not in the playoffs.

"One through nine is important," Mike Lowell said. "We don't want the guys hitting behind or in front of that David-Manny combination not being able to do their job."

For most of the season, 101 of his 154 games, Lowell batted sixth. Still, he drove in 120 runs and hit .324, both career highs. He's batted fifth in the playoffs.

Ortiz and Ramirez each reached base in all five plate appearances during Boston's 10-3 win over Cleveland in Game 1 of the best-of-seven ALCS.

"What they're doing right now is pretty incredible," Indians manager Eric Wedge said before Game 2 on Saturday night. "You've got a guy behind them that only knocked in 120. So it's not just about those two guys. But, obviously, they're the backbone of what they do here offensively."

The lineup starts with rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who hit .317 in the regular season.

"He's out there every day," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "He seems like a veteran to me."

No. 2 hitter Kevin Youkilis reached base three times in the opener and scored every time.

Then comes Ortiz and Ramirez. Swinging at pitches in the strike zone and avoiding ones that just missed, they combined to go 4-for-4 with five walks and a hit by pitch Friday night.

Lowell had a double and three RBI. Bobby Kielty, playing in place of J.D. Drew because lefty C.C. Sabathia started for Cleveland, singled in two runs. The last three hitters - Jason Varitek, Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo - each had a double.

"When the lineup flips over, Lugo, Dustin and Youk, if they're on base, there's nowhere to put them," Lowell said. "So they've got to pitch to them. So that's to our advantage."

During the regular season, the Red Sox were second in the AL in on-base percentage and third in runs and total bases. They amassed those numbers despite a subpar year from Drew, who batted fifth most of the season. He hit .270 with 11 homers and 64 RBI after signing a five-year, $70 million contract as a free agent.

In the first four playoff games, Ortiz reached base in 16 of 18 plate appearances and went 7-for-9. Ramirez reached safely in 11 of 12 trips since the second game of Boston's three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the first round.

Opposing pitchers walked each of them eight times in the first four games.

"We know that they're going to pitch kind of carefully. That's been the talk, night in and night out before this series," Ortiz said. "So we keep that in mind and we stick with whatever they give us."

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