Marathon is Sox rerun

Ortiz again beats Yanks, this time in the 14th, 5-4

October 19, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The Boston Red Sox must have figured the only way to end all this Curse of the Bambino nonsense was to accomplish something so improbable, so unthinkable that even the greatest literary minds of New England couldn't have conceived it.

Coming back from three games down to dethrone the New York Yankees in the ALCS? It could still happen.

The Red Sox kept their new impossible dream alive last night through another epic struggle that ended when David Ortiz - who else? - lined an RBI single in the 14th inning, giving them a 5-4 win before 35,120 at Fenway Park.

Yankees manager Joe Torre called it "Groundhog Day."

Having trimmed New York's series lead to 3-2, the Red Sox sent it back to the Bronx for Game 6.

No major league team trailing a best-of-seven series 3-0 has ever come back to force a Game 7, but Boston will try tonight, when it sends Curt Schilling and his gimpy right ankle to the mound, opposite Jon Lieber.

But everyone might want to catch a breath. There's a 60 percent chance for rain tonight in New York. Considering what these two teams have been through the past two nights, they could use the break.

"I'm definitely going to need help walking to the hotel [in New York], but it's worth it," said Johnny Damon, who scored the winning run from second base when Ortiz singled off Yankees reliever Esteban Loaiza. "Both teams are going through it."

Facing elimination in Game 4, the Red Sox staged a ninth-inning rally against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and won it in the 12th on a two-run homer by Ortiz.

That game lasted 5 hours and 2 minutes, an ALCS record that stood until ... last night.

This time, the Red Sox rallied to tie the score with two runs against Tom Gordon and Rivera in the eighth inning.

Then, after squandering numerous scoring chances that had to leave their diehard fans wondering if this team is charmed or cursed, they finally won it at 10:59 p.m. To think, Pedro Martinez had thrown the first pitch in the late afternoon shadows at 5:10.

This one lasted 5 hours and 49 minutes, making it the longest game in postseason history.

"We're very evenly matched," Torre said. "We have a lot of intensity on both sides of this thing, and you know, it takes on a life of its own. Each game is a series in itself."

In a game that pitted Martinez against Yankees starter Mike Mussina, the Red Sox led 2-1 until the sixth inning, when Derek Jeter hit a three-run double off Martinez.

Once again, the Yankees looked like they were headed to their 40th World Series.

Once again, the Red Sox made them wait.

Game 4, which ended Monday at 1:22 a.m., taxed both bullpens to the limit so this one became a war of attrition.

After pulling Mussina in the seventh with a 4-2 lead, Torre used three straight pitchers who each pitched two innings on Sunday - Tanyon Sturtze, Tom Gordon and Rivera.

Ortiz, who has driven in nine of Boston's 27 runs in this series, led off the eighth inning against Gordon and connected for his third postseason home run.

"Ortiz has been awesome," said Damon. "We're in this spot because of him."

Gordon threw 26 pitches on Sunday, and the fatigue seemed to affect his command. After Ortiz hit the home run, Gordon walked Kevin Millar, and then Trot Nixon singled, putting runners at the corners.

With the Fenway crowd on its feet, smelling blood, Torre summoned Rivera, who had thrown 40 pitches the previous night.

The first batter Rivera faced, Jason Varitek, tied the score with a sacrifice fly. Ever the professional, Rivera got five more outs, sending the game into extra innings.

By then, everyone was a little punch drunk. The Red Sox were thinking, "What curse?"

After tying the score in the eighth, they caught a huge break in the ninth, when the Yankees had the potential game-winning hit bounce into the right-field stands.

With Ruben Sierra on first base, Tony Clark drilled a ball down the right-field line against Red Sox closer Keith Foulke.

Had the ball stayed in play, Sierra would have scored easily, but it hopped over the short green wall, forcing the runners to stop at second and third.

Miguel Cairo fouled out, ending the inning.

But even when the fates seemed finally to be on their side, the Red Sox couldn't just go the easy route.

Oh no, no, no.

After the eighth, they blew three decent chances to score. Damon was caught stealing after singling to start the ninth. Doug Mientkiewicz was stranded on third after a one-out double in the 10th.

In the 11th, the Red Sox started with back-to-back singles, but Damon popped out on a botched sacrifice bunt attempt, and Loaiza got Orlando Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Ortiz decided to get in on the fun after drawing a one-out walk in the 12th. The big man with four stolen bases in his major league career took off for second and argued vociferously after getting thrown out.

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