Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18, 2004: He Can Keep on Running to New York

Kevin Millar had warned everyone the night before not to let the Red Sox win. A Red Sox win in Game 4 would mean the Yankees would have to face Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling in Game 5 and a possible Game 6. When this series is remembered 25 years from now people will think about that and it will make sense to them how the Red Sox came back and it may take away some of the magic of it all. However, on October 18th, 2004 the reality of the situation was setting in for Red Sox fans.

The Game 4 win was incredible and it felt special but the issue going into Game 5 was that Pedro was no longer the Pedro that history will remember. His last dominant, prime season was really 2003. His ERA in 2004 was 3.90 and on top of that he was facing a Yankees team that had started to figure him out over the last couple of seasons. In 2004, Pedro was 1-2 against the Yankees with an ERA of 5.47.

Game 5 was the greatest game of the series. It was a game the Red Sox could have lost in a variety of ways. They didn't of course and the way they would win was truly special.

Pedro had a 2-1 lead headed to the 6th inning and was pitching pretty well. However, Pedro's pitch count was rising and his effectiveness was starting decline quickly. He loaded the bases with two outs and Derek Jeter delivered a three run double down the right field line. Yankees 4 Red Sox 2. I really thought it was over at this point. I had a bad feeling coming into this game with Pedro and those bad feelings were confirmed. Was it really possible we could rally again?

The 8th inning came and the heroes from Game 4 made their presence known in Game 5. On the mound for the Yankees was Tom Gordon, a pitcher who just six years earlier had a dominant season as the Red Sox closer. How dominant? Well, Stephen King, a Red Sox die hard fan, wrote a book called The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Gordon was brought in an inning earlier to face Manny Ramirez and got him to ground into a double play. David Ortiz would lead off the 8th inning and homer to cut the lead in half. There is a reason why Ortiz would eventually be named the ALCS MVP, this is just one of them. Kevin Millar would then walk, immediately he was pinch run for by Dave Roberts. Ring a bell? Trot Nixon was now up. Nixon signed with the Red Sox out of high school eleven years earlier. He was a fan favorite for the way he played and here he was in a huge spot. This was his chance to make a mark on the 2004 season in which injuries had limited him to just 48 games during the regular season. Roberts was running and Nixon was swinging. A base hit to center would put runners on the corners with nobody out. Gordon's night would be over, Mariano Rivera was summoned from the bullpen to redeem himself from the previous night. Rivera would face Jason Varitek and the captain would fly out to deep center, scoring Roberts to tie the game. Two nights and two runs scored by Roberts, both of which tied the game. He is now a Red Sox legend. Mark Bellhorn would then strike out as his slump continued and as fans would continue to question Francona and why he was sticking with him.

The game was far from over. It would last 14 innings and nobody would score from eighth inning. The five innings in between were excruciating. It really felt like I was losing my mind at times. The Red Sox offense went to sleep and I remember just waiting for the lineup to turn over until Manny and Papi would get up. Johnny Damon and Bellhorn were both slumping and were basically automatic outs at this point. Gabe Kapler pinch ran for Nixon in the 8th inning and he wasn't exactly a huge offensive threat. It was agonizing.

The Yankees did threaten a few times, most notably the infamous double by Tony Clark in the 9th inning that somehow jumped up into the seats negating Ruben Sierra from scoring.

Then there was Tim Wakefield, two nights earlier he had made the sacrifice in which I called his greatest night as a member of the Red Sox, well this night is right up there. He would pitch three innings, giving up just one hit, no runs and would strikeout four. He did this all the while pitching to Varitek who was awful at catching the knuckle ball. Every pitch that Wakefield would throw with a man on base was torture to watch. Usually you are just worried about a base hit but now you were worried about a base hit and if the guy didn't hit it would Varitek catch it. To make matters worse, the knuckle ball was really moving. There would be three passed balls during Wakefield's three innings of work but none would cost the Red Sox a run or the win. They found a way to survive until Big Papi showed up.

The 14th inning came and Damon who was swinging really bad managed to work a walk. Manny would also work a walk from Yankee pitcher Esteban Loaiza and then our Mr. October would fight off a single to center scoring Damon five hours and forty nine minutes after the first pitch of the game. I will never forget the image of Damon sprinting home and hearing Joe Buck say "here comes Damon, and he can keep on running to New York"  The Red Sox were headed to New York. They had survived Game 5 and fittingly Tim Wakefield would be the winning pitcher.

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