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 best literary minds of New England couldn't have conceived it.

Coming back from three games down to dethrone the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series? It could still happen. They kept their new impossible dream alive last night through another epic contest, which ended when David Ortiz - who else? - hit a run-scoring single in the 14th inning, giving them a 5-4 victory before 35,120 at Fenway Park.

Having trimmed the Yankees' series lead to 3-2, the Red Sox sent the series back to New York, with Game 6 scheduled for tonight at Yankee Stadium.

Boston will send Curt Schilling and his gimpy right ankle to the mound against Jon Lieber, but folks might want to settle in a bit. There's a 60 percent chance for rain in New York.

Considering what these two teams have been through the past two nights, they could use the break.

Facing elimination in Game 4, the Red Sox rallied in the ninth inning against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and won it in the 12th when Ortiz hit a two-run walk-off homer. That one lasted 5 hours and 2 minutes, making it the longest game in ALCS history.

But that was nothing compared to last night. This time, the Red Sox tied the game against the incomparable Rivera in the eighth inning, and squandered numerous scoring chances before finally winning it when Ortiz dropped his two-out, broken-bat single into center field in the 14th, scoring Johnny Damon from second.

"This team has done something the last two days that will go down in history as an incredible accomplishment," outfielder Gabe Kapler said. "I'd like to see the record for walk-off hits. What David Ortiz has done is incredible. He's carried us."

It was the third walk-off moment of the postseason for Ortiz, who hit the home run that eliminated the Anaheim Angels in Game 3 of the Division Series.

This time, he hit his single to cap a 10-pitch at-bat against Esteban Loaiza, the last reliever in the Yankees' bullpen.

Who says the Red Sox are cursed?

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

With the score tied, and 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 the ball 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 hitting a one-out double in the 10th.

In the 11th, the Red Sox started with back-to-back singles, but Damon popped out to the catcher on a botched sacrifice bunt attempt, and Loaiza got Orlando Cabrera to ground into a 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 with Jason Varitek at the plate and argued vociferously after getting thrown out.

Then there was the crazy top of the 13th. In his second inning of work, Tim Wakefield basically had to get four outs. He struck out Gary Sheffield to start the inning, but the knuckler squirted by Varitek for a passed ball, allowing Sheffield to reach.

With Wakefield's personal catcher, Doug Mirabelli, on the bench, Varitek had three passed balls in the inning. The Yankees had runners at second and third, when Wakefield struck out Sierra to end the inning.

By that point, everyone was a little punch drunk.

In the last three games of this series alone, the teams played 15 hours and 11 minutes.

Ages earlier, when the game began in the late afternoon shadows, it began Pedro's last stand. A free agent after the season, Pedro Martinez went to the mound knowing this might be his final Red Sox start.

His teammates staked him to a 2-0 lead, sending eight batters to the plate in the first inning and forcing Mike Mussina to throw 34 pitches.

It was 2-1, when the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning for Derek Jeter. On his 100th pitch of the night, Martinez left a pitch over the outer half of the plate, and Jeter punched it down the right-field line.

It seemed like a backbreaking moment for the Red Sox. Three runners came around to score, including Cairo, who made a nifty hook slide into home plate, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead.

After that sixth inning, Martinez was done.

Mussina overcame his own shaky start, and pitched into the seventh inning.

But Game 4, which ended at 1:22 a.m. on Monday morning, was a 5-hour, 2-minute marathon that taxed both bullpens to their limit.

After pulling Mussina, Yankees manager Joe Torre used three straight pitchers who had each pitched two innings on Sunday - Tanyon Sturtze, Tom Gordon and Rivera.

Ortiz, whose two-run, 12th-inning homer off Paul Quantrill won Game 4, led off the eighth inning against Gordon and homered again.

Gordon walked Kevin Millar, and then Trot Nixon singled up the middle, putting runners at the corners.

With the Fenway crowd on its feet, smelling blood, Torre summoned Rivera.

Once again, Rivera needed six outs. This time he got the kind of save that doesn't show up in the box score.

Sure, the Red Sox tied it. Rivera's first batter, Varitek, lofted a sacrifice fly, scoring pinch runner Dave Roberts from third base, and another Yankees' lead had vanished.

But once again, Rivera minimized the damage, getting New York through the ninth still tied.

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