Tuesday, October 19, 2004

ALCS Game 5

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 5, New York Yankees 4

Recipe to beat the Yankees:

  1. Pitch a close game. Let the Yankees get a run or two on your late-ish in the game, so they end up bringing in Rivera
  2. Stage some sort of comeback in the ninth. If down by two or more runs, have David Ortiz come up and hit home runs until down by one.
  3. The Yankees reliever will now walk Kevin Millar.
  4. Pinch run Dave Roberts for Millar.*
  5. Roberts either steals a base, or so distracts the pitcher that he gives up a hit. Roberts will score within a play or two, tying the game.
  6. Add 3 - 5 innings and a slew of Red Sox fan soul.
  7. Have whichever worn out or poorly controlled Yankee reliever that is still able to be sent out give up the game winning hit to David Ortiz. Fenway will literally explode.

I made a joke before leaving work yesterday that the game would go six hours last night. It was a joke, of course...but it came pretty close to true. Fourteen innings and five hours and forty nine minutes from start to finish. Incredible mistakes, incredible blown opportunities, ridiculous heroics and some good luck mixed in made this game the second of two reality altering ALCS games in a row.

It started out easy enough; I rush home from work, get back at 5:20 and turn the TV on to discover that it's already the bottom of the first, Cabrera is on first with one out and Manny is up. The Sox go on to score two, including a run that Mussina walks in. I call Robin to find out why he and our friend Morgan from college have not shown up yet. As I do, Bernie Williams hits a solo shot. Robin tells me he's hanging up now. The score remains 2 - 1 until the sixth, when Pedro gives up a three run triple to Jeter on his 100th pitch. I've decided that there needs to be a special section on all of the scoreboards that tells Francona how many pitches Pedro has until 100, so he can warm up a reliever on time and pull Petie after pitch 99, thus saving us all some grief. Other than the triple, Pedro was excellent, showing yet again that the Yankees really are not his daddy.** If, in fact, that was his last start as a Red Sox, it was not one to be ashamed of. Morgan leaves to go to a friend's place in Park Slope, but my roommate Ryan comes back just before he leaves and really gets into the game in his stead.***

Mike Timlin comes in, does the entire seventh and two thirds of the eighth without major incident. Keith Foulke comes in, after four innings of work last night, finishes the eighth and survives the ninth by purest luck: after Reuben Sierra drew a walk, Tony Clark hit a smash into right field that bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. The runners are stuck on second and third and Foulke gets Miguel Cairo to pop out to end the inning. At some point along here Trot Nixon makes two incredible catches, one of which stopped what surely would have been a big run scoring hit by Matsui, keeping the game close.

The Sox go into their half and pull the Millar/Roberts combo. Dave Roberts jumps back and forth so much during Trott Nixon's at bat that he freaks out Tom Gordon completely. Robin's comment: "If you cracked open Tom Gordon's head right now, Dave Roberts would come out and steal third." Nixon gets a single and Roberts tears around to third. Enter Sandman. For the second night in a row, Rivera gives up the tying run, this time in the form of a sacrifice fly by Varitek, before getting out of the inning. Exit Sandman. The Machine has once again failed to do his job.

Arroyo comes on for the tenth and is pure smoke. Mike Myers comes up against Matsui and strikes him out on four pitches. Embree finishes off the eleventh in style, before Wakefield pulls a heroic three inning effort and wins the game in the fourteenth, giving up one hit and one walk with four strikeouts, all the while pitching to a catcher who can't catch him, so that the winning run gets to third on pass balls. Solid gold. Meanwhile, the Yankees go through Heredia and Quantrill before using their last, worst hope, Esteban Loiza. It takes three and a third innings, includes some of the weirdest antics I've seen from this team of idiots in a while, before Big Papi drops a bloop single into right center to score Johnny Damon from third.

David Ortiz. David Ortiz was the embodiment of the Red Sox fan in the extra innings last night, taking hacks at pitches that made Orlando Cabrera look good, cursing audibly at strikeouts, trying to steal second (yes, it surprised us too) before finally finding a way to win it. He is the People's Champion right now if for no other reason than that he clearly wanted to win this game as much as any in the Nation did.

Meanwhile, back in the living room, all is chaos. Robin and I have yelled some horrible, horrible things at the television during this game and I'm starting to wonder if my neighbors hate me. In the sixth inning, we press the mute button on the remote to stop the insanity coming from the mouths of McCarver and Buck and wonder if Al Leiter will try and strangle himself with his tie before the series is over to escape his contract. With the quiet, a measure of calm returns, although now we're yelling abuse at the players instead of the announcers. Robin dies at least four times and exclaims that his soul is dead at least five. We stand up to induce strikeouts, chant "meat" at the screen like our lives depend on it, hug each other after huge outs, moan after huge outs (team depending), curse at Mark Bellhorn for striking out, at Tony Clark for being tall and old, at Derek Jeter for his smug grin and A-Rod for his purple lips. At the end of the game, for the ten pitches it took for David Ortiz to hit that single, we simply stood and smacked our hands against our legs in a rhythm, trying to will the ball into a scorable spot on the field so the series could advance to game six. Smack, smack, smack like some mystic drums, inducing the baseball gods to give Ortiz the hit we all knew he could get. And then he did. And it was very, very good.

Tonight, Curt Schilling goes up to prove exactly why the Red Sox picked him up in the off-season. Equipped with a special shoe from Reebok designed to keep his injured ankle stable enough to push off of, Schilling faces Jon Lieber in the Bronx and will probably throw until his arm falls off, because I have a feeling there's absolutely nothing in the bullpen. This game is living for today in its fullest extent and it'll be...well, it'll be what it'll be. It'll be something though, I'm sure of that. GO SOX!!!

* - The way Francona has run this two nights in a row makes me think of the National League, except it's substituting first basemen rather than pitchers and pinch runners instead of hitters. It is, however, one of the more forward-looking things Francona has done.
** - After seeing a hat this morning that read, "Hey Pedro, who's your daddy?", I've decided I want to make a shirt that reads, "Hey Yankees, who's your papi?" and put a big number 34 on the back.
*** - This game made Ryan into a Red Sox fan. I have so confirmed it.