The greatest thing about Game 6 is how it still bothers Yankee fans. Yankee fans still refuse to admit that Curt Schilling had anything wrong with his ankle. They are convinced the blood was fake and Schilling was just creating the drama. As a Red Sox fan I love it, it shows just how much the collapse bothers Bronx Nation. The facts are the facts, Schilling only made 11 starts the following season because of surgery and had an ERA of 5.69. Schilling was not the same in 2005 and in reality was never the same after that incredible night in 2004. It was the ultimate sacrifice by Schilling, he went out there on one leg and forever changed the Red Sox franchise. He will always be remembered for it and it was the kind of thing that may just push the Cooperstown doors open for him. The bloody sock will live on forever and be a thorn in the side of Yankee fans as long as there is baseball.
The Schilling heroics were far from the only story line from this game. Bronson Arroyo and the Alex Rodriguez saga continued in the 8th inning. The saga actually got it's start back on July 24th when Arroyo plunked AROD on his elbow pad in a game the Yankees were dominating. This touched off the infamous bench clearing brawl with Jason Varitek giving AROD a picture perfect facial. The Red Sox woke up on that day and came from behind and beat the Yankees with a walk off homer by Bill Mueller against the great Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox would use that win as a rallying point and it transformed them from a team that wasn't looking like postseason material into a very dangerous pennant contender.
With the Red Sox up 4-2 in the 8th inning they turned to Arroyo. The Red Sox bullpen was on fumes and Arroyo who served most of the season as the fifth starter was now asked to get three very big outs before turning things over to Keith Foulke. Arroyo struck out Tony Clark for the first out of the inning and then gave up a double to Miguel Cairo and a single to Derek Jeter. AROD was up with runners on the corners with one out in a two run game. Rodriguez had a chance to build a reputation right here as a true Yankee and a great postseason performer. Instead, he dribbled a ball off the end of his bat and then slapped the ball out of the glove of Arroyo.
As the ball was rolling free, Cairo and Jeter scored. Alex was standing on second base and the game was briefly tied. I was watching in utter horror. Jeter was pumping his fist as he touched home plate and I was contemplating throwing my television out my bedroom window. The umpires came to the rescue and for the first time in the history of postseason baseball the Yankees did not get the call. Arroyo got Gary Sheffield to pop up and the Red Sox dream was alive and kicking. AROD would go hitless in Game 7 and would struggle the next several years in the postseason. He would briefly redeem himself in 2009 but Rodriguez will be more known for his big game failures than for anything else and it all started with that at bat against Bronson Arroyo seven years ago tonight.
While AROD began a personal trend of postseason failure, the Red Sox second basemen entered his name into Red Sox lore. Mark Bellhorn was booed incessantly by Red Sox fans throughout the 2004 playoffs. He hit just .091 against the Angels in the first round. Fans wanted Pokey Reese, but Terry Francona stuck with him, beginning a pattern that would define Francona's mangerial career in Boston. He always stuck with his veterans, it was a trait that angered many Red Sox fans but it was his style to the very bitter end. In Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS it paid off. The Red Sox would win 4-2 and force a Game 7 thanks to a Mark Bellhorn three run homer and an incredible performance from Curt Schilling. Two of Tito's veterans stepped up when it mattered most making this 2004 team one to remember for the ages.