Sox have had upper hand on Phillies


PHILADELPHIA – The Boston Red Sox come to Citizens Bank Park on Friday night, and if their arrival leaves some Phillies players wincing a little, it’s probably understandable.

The Phillies can’t help but remember the whooping they endured during Boston’s interleague visit last year.

In three games, the Red Sox outscored the Phils, 27-9, and out-homered them, 7-2, en route to a sweep of the series.

It was one of the low points of the Phillies’ season. After losing three to the Red Sox, the Phils went to New York and lost two of three to the Mets, prompting former closer Billy Wagner to go off on his teammates in a much-warranted rant that he says turned him into an outcast in his own clubhouse.

Interestingly, after this weekend’s series against the Red Sox, the Phils head to New York for a showdown with the Mets, the team for which Wagner now closes.

During Boston’s visit to Philadelphia last year, Manny Ramirez homered in each game and actually laughed as he rounded the bases after hitting one of them. Ramirez clearly loved the Bank’s hitter-friendly dimensions. Boston pitcher David Wells did not. After giving up two homers in the series finale, he joined the list of pitchers to criticize the size of the park.

All three of this weekend’s games will be sellouts. Phillies fans are waking up to their club, which had been on a roll before being swept in Milwaukee. And plenty of the citizens of Red Sox Nation will be on hand.

The Red Sox lead the American League East by a half-game over the New York Yankees. Those two teams open a three-game series in Boston on Monday night, and the Red Sox will hold ace Curt Schilling out of this weekend’s series so he can pitch the opener against the Yankees.

Schilling isn’t the only former Phillie back in town. Boston manager Terry Francona piloted the Phils from 1997 to 2000, when talent was scarce. Francona has since worked for the Indians, Rangers and Athletics. He became Red Sox manager in 2004 and led them to their first World Series title in 86 years.

Any hurt feelings that Francona had over his firing in Philadelphia are gone. He no longer lives in the area, having moved from Bucks County last year.

“It’ll be great to see some old friends – except that one guy in the third row,” he said, kidding.

“We’re built differently,” Francona added. “I think we catch the ball better, and that’s helped our pitching.”

The Sox have played seven straight errorless games and have made just 12 in 38 games, fewest in the majors.

In addition to improving their defense, the Red Sox have taken the adventure out of the ninth inning thanks to rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon, who leads the majors with 14 saves.

“He calms the game down,” Francona said. “Any time someone can do that, it’s very beneficial.”

Papelbon’s emergence has allowed the Red Sox to add former closer Keith Foulke to a setup corps that already included Mike Timlin.

“We needed to get deeper in the bullpen, and we’ve done that,” Francona said. “We like our lineup, but like the White Sox showed last year, you’d better have pitching. It’s awfully hard to win if you don’t.”

(c) 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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AP-NY-05-18-06 2133EDT