Red Sox pitchers try to reverse heartache

October 19, 2004|By Laura Vecsey

BOSTON - In the cosmic circles in which so much of the Red Sox karma and lore resides, we bring you this:

The Boston pitcher who gave up the heart-breaking home run to the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, Tim Wakefield, was in the game last night when the Red Sox came back to beat the Yankees, 5-4, in the 14th.

"Last year was last year," Wakefield said.

He meant it, except that until the Red Sox beat the Yankees, last year and all the years are piled on the burdened shoulders and psyches of Red Sox Nation.

In the cosmic circles in which the Red Sox's hopes swirl, we bring you this:

Game 6 will come, at Yankee Stadium, when and if the rain that is forecast ever stops.

After last night, there will be no raining on the Red Sox's parade - and it will be loud, all the way back down through New England to the land of the Evil Empire.

The Sox are fighting back.

Now there's the amazing specter of Curt Schilling, the man brought to Boston for one specific purpose, taking the ball for the Red Sox once again - bum ankle be damned.

"Curt Schilling's pitch count might be 180," manager Terry Francona said after last night's victory.

From the abyss, they're alive and Schilling will take the mound in the Bronx. He'll cast off the ski boot-like brace he's been forced to wear and shove his ailing ankle into the custom Reebok hightops.

"I'm ready to go," Schilling said.

He was eager. Hungry. The atmosphere at Fenway for the last two nights had made him understand he had made the right decision to come to Boston and beat the Yankees his own.

"It was electric [the last few nights]. This whole series has been electric. It's amazing. I've never seen anything like it," he said.

"I'm just so proud to be part of this team. This is like a 15-round fight between two heavyweights," Schilling said.

"This [start] is a chance to get us one step closer to the World Series. A chance to get us closer to Game 1 and thank my teammates for picking me up the last few days," he said.

Maybe now the tale of this 86-year Red Sox quest twists into something beyond the imagination of even the most tortured of souls in Red Sox Nation.

Can they really do this?

Can they really come all the way back, as it has never been done before when a team's been down 3-0 in the American League Championship Series and the way the Yankees have owned the Red Sox?

Last night, the Red Sox improved upon the bit of self-respect they earned in Game 4's early-morning win. That one came at 1:23 a.m., when All-Star clean-up hitter David Ortiz belted a two-run homer that gave the Red Sox a glimmer of hope, but more important, staved off a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

Last night, with Ortiz again driving in the extra-innings, game-winning RBI on a two-out single, the Red Sox did a lot more than simply secure some self respect:

They injected the first real bit of mischief and drama in an ALCS that no one anticipated would have taken until this late stage in the series to get serious.

But it was right. It was fitting, considering the rivalry.

On the part of the Red Sox, it was also homage to one of the most dominating pitchers of his generation.

On a night when Pedro Martinez took the Fenway Park mound for what was billed as his last start as a Red Sox, he wasn't allowed to go out the loser.

His teammates made sure of that, the way they couldn't and didn't supply runs for Martinez in Game 2 of this American League Championship Series.

Game 2 should have been Martinez's win. The Red Sox should never have gone down, 3-0, to the Yankees. Not this year. Last night, in Game 5, the Red Sox did better.

In the history of Pedro Martinez meltdowns, the one he experienced in the sixth inning was relatively minor. Martinez gave up singles to Jorge Posada and Ruben Sierra, then hit the Yankees' No. 9 hitter, Miguel Cairo, to load the bases.

It was Martinez's 98th pitch on the night - close to his witching hour, or his 100-pitch limit.

Next up was Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain and catalyst who had not yet had an RBI in this series. Jeter, overdue to do some damage, slashed a 1-1 pitch - Martinez's 101st pitch on the night - for a double down the right-field line. He drove in three runs and the Yankees had the lead, 4-2.

Unsettled, Martinez promptly threw the next pitch inside to Alex Rodriguez, plunking him hard on the elbow and was out of the game at the start of the seventh.

But a long time later, the Red Sox did the right thing for Martinez, whose 117 wins put him behind only Roger Clemens, Cy Young, Mel Parnell and Luis Tiant in Red Sox history. Fellow Dominican Republic countryman David Ortiz took care of that - again.

Ortiz's bases-empty shot in the eighth inning cut the Yankees lead to 4-3, then the dM-ijM-` vu from the Red Sox Game 4 comeback win kicked in. Kevin Millar walked and Dave Roberts was inserted as a pinch runner, who scored the tying run on Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly.

In the dugout, his quirky long curls under a thick ski cap, Martinez was off the hook. If this was to be his last start as a Red Sox, it would have been wrong for it to have been a loss.

Oh, Pedro.

George Steinbrenner might pluck him from Boston and stick him on the other side of this never-ending rivalry. That doesn't seem likely, now that Martinez is a 100-pitch starter whose shoulder has logged more miles than the Delta shuttle.

But with his $17 million option year with the Red Sox expired, Martinez seems as good as gone from Boston. This is incredible since it was always Martinez who laced the Yankees/Red Sox drama with an odd bit of eccentricity.

He's still in this thing. So are the Red Sox.

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