It was probably more the symbolism than anything else but I loved Varitek batting righty against the Moose. Do what it takes to win (RLRS Photo).
Yankees 4 – Red Sox 5 (14) (Yankees lead 3 games to 2)
WP: Tim Wakefield, LP: Esteban Loaiza
I arrived at the ballpark after a short walk from work ready for the 5PM start. I remarked to my mother as I arrived that at least I would get to bed at a reasonable hour that night…little did I know.
The Sox jumped on Mike Mussina in the first with three straight singles and a walk plating a run. With two outs Jason Varitek came to bat against the Moose determined to literally turn around his career 4 for 47 performance against the righty by stepping in from the right side of the plate. The normally controlled Mussina issued a base on balls that gave the Sox a 2-0 lead.
After Bernie Williams homered to lead off the second the game stayed at 2-1 as Pedro Martinez and Mussina dueled like Hall of Famers should on a big stage. In the fourth Pedro dusted Hideki Matsui who at that point was a prime candidate for series MVP. Make as much or as little of it as you want but he came up empty in his next ten at bats not getting another hit until the Sox had an 8-1 lead in game seven.
Entering the sixth inning Pedro was on 82 pitches and everyone in the ballpark knew he was approaching the dreaded 100 pitch mark that was so often his bugaboo. A one out bleeder by Jorge Posada and a Ruben Sierra liner to center had the Yankees set up with two on and two out. Pedro plunked light hitting Miguel Cairo to bring Derek Jeter to the plate.
This game sort of gives you a little snapshot of the Jeter experience. He went just 1 for 7 in the game but he made the “1” count punching Pedro’s 100th pitch for a double down the right field line for a three run double. The Yankees had a 4-2 lead. Terry Francona stuck with Pedro and after plunking Alex Rodriguez and walking Gary Sheffield things were rather terrifying. One hit would have put the game away. Matsui ripped a sinking liner to right-center that was two, maybe three runs but Trot Nixon made a season-saving sliding catch. The Sox were down 4-2, but still alive.
Tom Gordon allegedly was puking from nervousness in the bullpen but he got Manny Ramirez to ground into a double play to end the seventh. In the eight David Ortiz demolished a ball off the Sports Authority sign atop the Monster for a 4-3 game. Kevin Millar did his walk thing again and Dave Roberts came into run. Roberts sure as heck seemed to flummox Flash and with Trot up in the count 3-1 he alighted for second. Nixon smoked one that just eluded Cairo and sailed into center for runners on the corners and no outs. Mariano Rivera came on and Varitek’s sac fly tied the game.
We did not know it at the time but the Boston Red Sox would never trail another game in 2004.
In the ninth Tony Clark drove a ball down the right field line toward the Pesky Pole. Fortunately it bounced and skipped into the stands and Sierra who was already around third had to return to third allowing Keith Foulk to escape. In the twelfth Wake entered the game and Cairo’s single was misplayed by Manny to get him into scoring position but Jeter and A-Rod flew out ending the inning. In the bottom of the frame Papi was on first with a walk when he tried to catch the Yankees sleeping but was throwing out attempting to steal. As was once said about Babe Ruth, his head was full of larceny but hit feet kept him honest.
Sometimes you don’t have to hit the ball far for a magic moment (RLRS Photo).
Which brought us to the thirteenth. The Iron Sheff struck out but reached on a passed ball (1). For some reason Sheffield did not attempt to steal and was erased on a force and Williams flew out bringing Posada to the plate. A passed ball (2) sent Matsui to second and the tension ratcheted up. An intentional walk brought Sierra to the plate and a passed ball (3) moved everyone 90 more feet. If Matsui travelled 90 more feet Dan Shaughnessy would have a new chapter for “Curse of the Bambino” – “Unlucky 13”.
It was awful. We were standing, we were roaring and we were dying. I was physically exhausted. I do not know how Wake had the balls to throw another knuckleball but he did. It was outside and Varitek dropped it but kept it close enough to keep Matsui at third as 35,120 hearts stopped. Wake took a breath, Varitek said “throw it again and I’ll catch it”…Wakefield threw, Sierra swung and missed and Varitek…CAUGHT IT!!! STRIKE THREE!!!!
We exploded. It was bit of a delayed explosion as we made sure it was secure in Jason’s mitt. Wake pumped his fist I think more in excitement that ‘Tek caught it than anything else.
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the 13th and a similar top of the 14th the Sox came up. Mark Bellhorn, who had been defended by Tito saying “(he) is a very underrated, very underappreciated player. We have more confidence in him than you guys [reporters] do. He’s a pretty good player” struck out. Damon walked, Orlando Cabrera struck out, Manny walked and up stepped Ortiz.
Every inning the Sox came to bat from the ninth inning on we had stood up. Every inning the Sox had a chance to send our boys on a trip to New York Fenway “rose as one” as Don Orsillo would say. We were up and down like Catholic parishoners and I suspect praying just as much. Now we were standing, screaming, praying, begging, pleading, hoping that Big Papi could do it agin.
Pitch after pitch after pitch Ortiz hung in. Loaiza worked him away and Ortiz kept hitting foul balls. Loaiza came in once and Ortiz slammed it down the right field line but foul. We shrieked and Loaiza went back outside. Finally on pitch number ten Loaiza tried to sneak one over the inside corner again. Joe Buck, the floor is yours…
Ortiz fights it off center field! Damon running to the plate and HE CAN KEEP ON RUNNING TO NEW YORK! Game six tomorrow night!!!!
Fenway went spastic. Even when something great happens there is order to the cheering. On this day there was none. We were all over the place, hugging, screaming, making an unholy racket. I know “Dirty Water” was playing because it always does when the Sox win but we could not hear it. We stayed and screamed as the interviews went on, we wouldn’t leave.
Finally after either five minutes or five hours we streamed onto Landsdowne Street. On the entire stroll through up the street the chant was ubiquitous;
“SOX IN SEVEN” CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP
“SOX IN SEVEN” CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP
“SOX IN SEVEN” CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP
Without question this was the greatest crowd for a sporting event I have ever been a part of. We were into it right from the jump. This was the game when it felt like something meaningful was being shared by players and fans. I do not know nor do I care if that was really the case, but it sure as hell felt like that.
Finally ending at 11PM the game was so long the Astros-Cards pitchers’ duel was in the 7th inning by the time we were done. I am pretty sure I learned about Jeff Kent‘s walk-off in that game as I walked by the Boston Beer Works.
Sox fans were often portrayed unfairly as pessimistic. You do not keep coming back after the stomach punches like Sox fans did if you do not have hope but this was off the charts. 23 hours earlier Kevin Millar dug in with the Sox down to their final three outs. Now everyone piled onto trains, into cabs and behind the wheels of their cars convinced that the Sox were winning the series.
I was so excited at the game winning hit I forgot to record Ortiz’ game winning hit. I did not realize this until I got myself ready for (spoiler alert) Game One of the World Series. I thought about updating my scoresheet but I think the blank field tells the story better than anything else could have.