Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another One for the Scrapbook

Some 35 hours later, people are still buzzing in Boston about the newest chapter in Red Sox postseason lore. (Who would have thunk four years ago that we've already have 'Red Sox postseason lore?)

You know the story. Sevens were wild. Seven runs down, seventh inning, one of the best bullpens in the game called upon to get seven outs and send the Rays - an improbable story unto themselves - into the World Series.

But just as the TBS announcers were analyzing Rays-Phillies matchups, it all began to beautifully unravel. Jed Lowrie spanked what looked like a harmless double to get on in the seventh, and then both Jason Varitek and Mark Kotsay flied out. With 2 outs, Coco Crisp - one of the big heroes in this one - singled, moving Lowrie to third. Pedroia then singled to right, scoring Lowrie and at least avoiding the insult of being shut out at home in an elimination game. And then Big Papi, our human mood ring, got everyone in the place jumping with a three-run moon shot off Grant Balfour, who inexplicably gave the slumping Ortiz a cookie right in his wheelhouse. The big man took his sweet time rounding the bases - kind of reminded me of Manny trying to break up a double play - as the volume at Fenway multiplied by several decibels. Watching at home, this was when I knew something good was happening. Momentum. A buddy texted me from Fenway saying that the crowd felt like it did back during those '04 games against the Yankees. A good sign.

When your hitters get you going, you need your pitchers to shut the opposition down and that's exactly what Jonathan Papelbon did in the eighth. Three up, three down for the Rays and the Sox were quickly back up, this time facing Dan Wheeler. Wheeler, who's been shaky lately, proceeded to give Joe Maddon agita by walking leadoff man Jason Bay on four straight pitches. If you thought Fenway was deafening, it went to a whole new level after J.D. Drew - heretofore known as Mr. June and Mr. October - launched a two-run homer to right to make it 7-6. Wheeler then got two quick outs, Lowrie on a flyball and pinch-hitter Sean Casey on strikes. And again, two-out magic. Kotsay doubled over centerfielder B.J. Upton's head - he should have had it - which brought Crisp up to the plate. Coco fought off pitch after pitch and then singled to right, driving in Kotsay with the tying run. Coco got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, but the run scored before the tag. Best at-bat by far of Coco's Red Sox career.

For the top of the 9th, Terry Francona summoned his new, 6'6" binky Justin Masterson. The Rays got two men on, and then Masterson did what he does best - he got Rays' slugger Carlos Pena to hit into an inning-ending double play. The kid's got a Derek Lowe-like sinker.

Then came the bottom of the ninth and, you guessed it, the Rays and reliever J.P. Howell got two quick outs as Pedroia grounded out and Papi K'd. Fortunately, we had the Greek God of Walks up next, and you just knew Kevin Youkilis was going to make Howell work. He fouled off tough pitch after tough pitch, barely making contact on a couple, and then hit a sharp groundball to third which Evan Longoria stabbed but then threw past Pena at first. Youk on second with Bay up, and Maddon decided to intentionally walk Bay. I understand the reasoning - force out at any base. But at the time, I was thinking that the next batter, Drew, is much more of a flyball hitter. On cue, Drew slammed one to right field which sailed over Gabe Gross' head (he could have made a better play too) and Youk motored around third with the winning run.
Absolutely incredible, and it's not a stretch to lump this one in with Dave Henderson's home run in 1986 and Dave Roberts' steal in 2004 against the Yankees. In both cases, the odds were stacked heavily against the Sox. The Angels had a 3-1 lead, their best reliever on the mound, and I remember the TV cameras showing the Angels' equipment kids packing everything up. Then Hendu made history. Same with Roberts obviously. And now we've got a whole new chapter in amazing Red Sox playoff comebacks.

Of course, the key question is what does this do psychologically to the young Rays? Maddon will figure it out and have them ready, but you can't tell me it didn't do something. The million-dollar question for the Sox is which Josh Beckett will we see tonight in Game 6 at the Trop? He has to be better than he was in his last start, right? Right?

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?