Even if you saw it -- and 33,760 people at Fenway yesterday will talk about it for years -- you couldn’t believe it.
Joe Morgan saw it. Saw it all, all 4 hours 36 minutes of the horror show the Red Sox endured, and he certainly couldn’t believe it.
Who could, really, as the Red Sox took a 10-0 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays and turned that into a 13-11, 12-inning loss.
Consider that for a moment -- 10-0 going into the top of the seventh. This is not the NBA, nor the NFL, where leads sometimes fade quickly. Even at Fenway, where leads often dissipate as quickly as a shift in the wind, this one looked safe.
“What a loss,” said Morgan. “This is the worst defeat of my managerial career in any league or city, hands down.”
Morgan, who has been managing for 23 years, might take some solace in knowing that the Red Sox have been playing baseball since 1901 and had never blown a lead that big.
It took some work. But the Sox, who now embark on a seven-game, seven-day road trip to Detroit and New York, made it look almost easy against Toronto, a team they have not beaten in Boston in 12 games, spanning nearly two years.
Starter Mike Smithson was breezing along, pitching a four-hit shutout, when a blister on his right big toe forced him out of the game in the seventh.
Enter Bob Stanley, who pitched like he had been pulled off a beach at Nantasket following an all-day party. All the Steamer had to do was get nine outs and he could have recorded one of the easiest saves of his career.
But Stanley, perhaps still thinking of the grand slam he had given up to right fielder Junior Felix Friday night, did his best impression of a Blue Jays batting practice pitcher. He was rocked for five hits and four runs in 1 2/3 innings.
The Red Sox, who had picked up a 5-0 lead in the first on Ellis Burks’ three-run homer, started talking to themselves, especially Smithson, who watched with a growing sense of apprehension from the clubhouse.
“You see it happen, but there’s not much you can do about it,” said Smithson, who gained an amazing no-decision for his day’s work. “It gets pretty frustrating.”
It got worse in the ninth, as the Blue Jays, who had cut the lead to 10-6 against Rob Murphy, started to work on Lee Smith, whom Morgan brought in after shortstop Tony Fernandez led off the inning with a single.
Smith did his best imitation of Stanley. He walked Kelly Gruber, allowed a double to left center by George Bell, driving in one run to make it 10-7 and putting men on second and third.
After getting Fred McGriff to strike out, Smith walked Lloyd Moseby, loading the bases and sending up catcher Ernie Whitt.
Smith danced around for three pitches, falling behind in the count and then tried to slip a pitch down and away. But Whitt sent the pitch up, up and away into the right-field stands for a grand slam and an 11-10 lead.
“Lots of strange things happen in this game,” said Whitt, who watched some more of them a few minutes later.
The Red Sox, faced with total humiliation, finally realized they still had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Nick Esasky led off with a walk and was advanced to second when Rich Gedman laid down a sacrifice bunt. Jody Reed singled to right off Tom Henke (the third of five Blue Jay pitchers), scoring Esasky and tying the game.
Morgan, who had given outfielders Mike Greenwell and Dwight Evans the remainder of the day off in the seventh, suddenly had to do some shuffling as he tried to sneak in one more run.
His final move was to use Marty Barrett, who had been given the day off, as a pinch hitter for Danny Heep, who had replaced Greenwell.
Facing David Wells, who replaced Henke, Barrett fouled off 12 pitches before sending a grounder to third.
But on this afternoon, even a routine grounder brought bad news for the Sox as Barrett went down like a running back with a twisted right knee. There was more than a hush in the park as Barrett was carried off the field on a stretcher with an injury that proved to be only a sprain.
Three innings later, the Red Sox ended the game in a similar position as Junior Felix blasted a Dennis Lamp pitch into the right-field bleachers for a two-run homer.
“This is pretty close to as bad as it gets,” said Burks, who saw a five- RBI afternoon wasted. “It seems that when things are going bad, they come in bunches.”
After yesterday’s performance, it is hard to imagine how much worse it can get.