Sunday, October 19, 2008

Varitek - Yes, Varitek - Comes Up Big for Sox

The Red Sox continued their comeback against the shell-shocked Rays last night in Tampa, taking Game 6 by a score of 4-2, and forcing a winner-take-all seventh game tonight at the Trop. Man, this has been one hell of a ride. Everything from late-game heroics to long home runs to TV power outages (we'll get to this atrocity in a moment).

Most of the questions heading into Game 6 revolved around the health of Josh Beckett. A strained oblique has resulted in decreased velocity, and while he clearly wasn't himself last night, he willed himself through five innings, allowing only two runs - both of which came on home runs (one by the red-hot B.J. Upton and one by Jason Bartlett). Of course, we didn't get to see the Upton home run in the first inning, which in some ways is fine by me.

TBS - which is broadcasting the AL playoff games this year - suffered some sort of power outage just before gametime, and there was no live feed of the game when it started. People were apoplectic. Instead of the start of a much-anticipated Game 6 at 8:07 p.m. last night, we got something called the Steve Harvey Show. Not a good time to be a bartender in a sports bar, or a Verizon TV service operator.

A buddy called me at 8:12 or so wondering what was up, then another friend said there was some sort of blackout in Atlanta, where TBS is based. The game had started, and there was no national broadcast. Embarrassing for TBS. Not only did someone bleep up, they also did a horrible job of letting viewers know what was going on, and when it might be resolved. I resorted to getting updates online, thinking it would be a quick fix... Coco Crisp got on with a bunt single in the top of the first, then got picked off... Upton hit another friggin' home run off Beckett... after a few more interminable, frustrating minutes with no picture or sound, I got up and put the radio broadcast on. A few minutes later, the game was finally on TBS.

So that's how we started. A few hours later, the Red Sox had forced Game 7 thanks to a gutsy performance from Beckett, an improbable, tie-breaking home run from Jason Varitek (who was 0-for-15 or something) in the 6th inning, and some good relief work by Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon.

The Rays are reeling, and the Sox have them right where they want them. Boston is 9-0 in elimination games since the Aaron Boone gut-punch in 2003. 9 and stinking 0. How's that for clutch? And now we have another seventh game to look forward to. They're all memorable, good and bad I s'pose. Joe Morgan's bloop single off Jim Burton in the 1975 World Series. Bruce Hurst and a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning in 1986. The aforementioned Boone game in 2003. Johnny Damon's curse-breaking grand slam in Yankee Stadium in the 2004 ALCS. And I have to admit, last year's Game 7 against the Indians in the ALCS is overshadowed in my mind by J.D. Drew's huge Game 6 grand slam. But a quick look at shows that it was the Youkilis/Pedroia show, as both combined to go 6 for 10 with 2 homers, 5 runs, and 7 RBI's. Some things never change.

Tonight, a chance for more history. Who will the heroes be? Can the taxed bullpen give us a little bit more? Will the Sox get to Matt Garza for more than one run, which was all they could muster off him in Game 3? Will Lester find his groove? Who will hit the big home run? The way this series has gone, I'm thinking a Sean Casey walkoff inside-the-parker.

Lots of questions, lots of anticipation. Let's just hope and pray TBS has its you know what together for first pitch.

(Boston Globe photo)

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