Wednesday, October 20, 2004

ALCS Game 6

Final Score:

Boston Red Sox 4, New York Yankees 2

Schilling was amazing. Seven innings of pure gold - seven innings, one homerun, four strikeouts, no walks. Pretty darn good for a guy with a busted ankle, who had, I found out afterwards, had his ankle tendon STAPLED together. The Sox played Lieber a great deal more effectively this time around, getting early hits off of him, although they could not score until the fourth because of double plays. Finally, thanks to a double by Millar and a single by Varitek, the Sox scored a run. Orlando Cabrera hit another single, moving Varitek to second. Then, the first of the night's amazing things happened.

We were five in the living room last night: Robin, Morgan, Ryan, Petra (the Yankees fan from Texas) and myself. Now, up until this point, Mark Bellhorn has not been our favorite player - he's done little but strikeout and make a few bad plays in this series. Up until this particular at-bat last night, Robin had said every time, "he's going to strikeout. He's going to hit into a double play" and of course, it had come true. This time, he looked me right in the eye and said, "he's going to hit a homerun." No joke. Bellhorn, being the obliging fellow that he is, hits a drive to the left field wall, Matsui is chasing, Matsui gives up on it...and then the third base umpire calls it a double. When I first saw it, I agreed with him - it looked like it had hit off the top of the wall. As it turned out, however, it had struck off the chest of a young female fan, whose black jacket obscured the view enough to cause confusion. Francona protested, the umpires met and made what turned out to be the proper call. 4 - 0 Red Sox.

Bronson Arroyo came on to start the eighth. He gives up two hits and a run and gets two outs. Derek Jeter is on first after single-ing in an RBI when A-Rod comes to bat. The Yankees third baseman hits grounder down the first base line that Arroyo retrieves; the pitcher then runs to the bag and tags A-Rod out as he runs by. Or tries to, as Rodriguez slaps the ball out of his hand as he passes Arroyo. The ball squirts down towards right field, Jeter scores and A-Rod goes to second. All is panic in the living room...until they show the replay and we realize what just happened. Terry Francona makes his way out of the dugout and convinces the umpires to meet for a second time. Crew chief Randy Marsh, who was at first, realizes that his view was obscured by Doug Mientkiewicz standing next to the bag and defers to Joe West, who was at home plate, who correctly calls that Rodriguez had interfered with the play, calls him out and sends Jeter back to first, according to this rule:

"While contact may occur between a fielder and runner during a tag attempt, a runner is not allowed to use his hands or arms to commit an obviously malicious or unsportsmanlike act such as grabbing, tackling, intentionally slapping at the baseball, punching, kicking, flagrantly using his arms or forearms ... to commit an intentional act of interference unrelated to running the bases."

Given A-Rod's history with Arroyo, it's hard to tell if this baserunning maneuver was a deliberate, malicious attempt by A-Rod and the Yankees to score runs they couldn't get legitimately, or if it was something instinctive. Alex's comments on the situation:

"I don't want those umpires meeting any more. Every time they have a meeting, they make a call against the Yankees. No more meetings...They said I should have ran him over, kind of like a catcher. I can't go out of my way to knock the ball out of his hand. I was perplexed by the whole situation. I don't know what I tried to do. I knew he was coming, and I know that the line belongs to me. Looking back, maybe I should have run him over." Here's a pic of the play in question, with a pretty decent angle.

I'm biased, but it sounds like those "A-Rod is an A-Hole" t-shirts people were selling back in April weren't so far off the mark. Of course, this series has been full of that huge undercurrent of tension - what with last night, Gary Sheffield's comments before Game 5 about the Red Sox being a team full of losers and amateurs that found itself posted all over the Red Sox clubhouse, Orlando Cabrera bowling over Miguel Cairo during Game 5 while sliding into second to try and break up a double all-out fights have broken out, but you can tell both sides are there to compete.

While we all sighed in relief after the umpires' decision on the second controversial call of the night, Yankees stadium explodes, as the oh-so-classy fans start throwing things on the field.* Francona calls his players in from the field and Stadium security calls in cops in riot gear to crouch along the first and third baselines in an attempt to prevent a riot. Eventually play resumes and Arroyo gets Sheffield to pop out to end the inning. The damage had been done, however, for when Keith Foulke comes on in the ninth it seems like he can't strike anyone out. Not for trying either - Joe West had been very good about making borderline calls, including one by one of the Yankees pitchers that just kissed the outside of the plate earlier in the game. Now, however, balls that were clearly going over the outside edge weren't being called. One batter strikes out swinging. Another gets a walk. Another pops out. The Yankees are down to their last out with Reuben Sierra. Sierra gets to two strikes, fouls off a few, takes what should have been strike three and is walked. Tony Clark comes to the plate, representing the winning run. The entire season is hanging on Foulke getting these strike calls and he's not getting them. I'm standing now, staring intently at the screen, willing Foulke to get the calls and get the outs. Robin, who I think has suffered some sort of partial breakdown after all this stress, is lying in a half fetal position on the floor, basically doing the same thing. Morgan makes a comment about how sports are supposed to be fun and how this room has suddenly become like a church. It's an apt description. 1 strike. 2 strikes. A few foul balls. Some balls, to the point where I'm starting to panic and think that Foulke is going to keep walking people until he walks in the winning run and there's nothing I can do about it. And then, strike three. A yell of triumph explodes from four throats and we're all hugging each other and cheering. The Sox have made history and become the first team to force a game 7 after being down by three in a post-season series.

Tonight, for that game 7, we're most likely going to have a slew of pitchers against Kevin Brown and his bad back. Derek Lowe, on two days rest, is the scheduled starter, but clearly he's not going to be able to go more than a few innings. After that, who knows what will happen? It's quite possible that everyone in that bullpen will have been used by the time the game is over. GO SOX!!!

* - I want it noted, by the way, that I bring this up because it bothers me that it occured. If Red Sox fans had done the same thing, I would be ashamed to be a Red Sox fan.