Yes, Dave Jauss said, it was foul. A foot, two feet, what did it matter? The Red Sox first base coach dreaded what was coming next.
``You see things like that,’’ Jauss said of Brian Daubach’s bid for a game-winning grand slam, one that cleared the wrong side of the right-field foul pole even as the Red Sox rookie raged at first base umpire Mike DiMuro. ``That’s your hit, then they get you out on the next pitch. That’s what they do in baseball.’’
But not to Daubach, not on this hot night that long will live in the memories of those who one day will spin the tale of the Belleville Basher, shaking their heads in sweet mystery at every retelling of how the son of a small-town Illinois mailman delivered yet again.
Daubach, after fouling off five consecutive pitches with the bases full, drove Tim Worrell’s next pitch the opposite way, high off the Monster. Darren Lewis, who was on third base, scored. Butch Huskey, who was on second, scored. And Jose Offerman, who took off from first as Worrell released his changeup, crossed the plate with the run that gave the Sox a 6-5 win over the Oakland Athletics, one that resonated with meaning far beyond its immediate impact on the wild card race.
``It’s hard even to describe, when you think about where I came from,’’ said Daubach, who didn’t miss a backroads whistlestop on his long, improbable trip to the big leagues. ``You do that in the minor leagues, you do it in front of maybe a thousand people.
``Nothing compares to winning a game in Boston, in the bottom of the ninth.’’
Turn on any TV, and you will see Daubach shedding any semblance of his Midwest reserve, leaping off second base as if he’d been shot out of a rocket launcher and throwing out his arms as if he could gather all of Kenmore Square in one giddy, glorious embrace. The crowd of 30,957, poised to file out after a near-miss, instead surrounded Daubach as he transformed Joe Mooney’s infield into his personal dance floor, while Fenway Park organist Richard Giglio shook the Back Bay night with the strains of ``Stars and Stripes Forever.’’
``Someday,’’ Jauss said, ``after he’s been an outstanding major leaguer, we’ll look at this, and he’ll sit back and be able to tell his grandkids, and I’ll be telling my kids’ kids, about this night.
``But not now. Not yet. But today, he’s the story, and everybody who got us to that point.’’
Inside the Sox clubhouse during that ninth-inning comeback, as first Jason Varitek singled, then Huskey (on an 0-and-2 pitch), and finally Offerman to load the bases, relievers Mark Guthrie and Rich Garces were standing on the couch with clubhouse man Pookie Jackson. They were shrieking at the big-screen TV, especially when DiMuro threw out his arms, signaling a foul ball.
``I was screaming, `No way,’ ‘’ said Garces, who followed Guthrie’s 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief with 2 1/3 innings of one-run work after the A’s had leaped out to a 4-0 lead in the third against starter Brian Rose.
``We were jumping around,’’ said Garces (and pity the upholstery that had to bear his kangaroo act). ``It’s so exciting, to come back and win a game like that.’’
Daubach has now driven in 15 runs in the last four games after what Guthrie called ``one of the most incredible at-bats I’ve ever seen.’’
Five RBIs Friday night, six Saturday, one Sunday, the three to win last night and cool off the A’s, who were fresh off a three-game sweep in Toronto and had opened August with 11 wins in 14 games. The A’s were one pitch away from drawing into a tie for the wild card. Instead, they fell two games behind the Sox, who have now won 8 of 11.
``We were 6 inches away from winning this game,’’ said Oakland catcher A.J. Hinch, who hit a three-run home run in the third after fouling off a squeeze bunt, then came that close to catching Daubach’s foul pop near the third-base railing on the Basher’s last at-bat. ``We threw it away.’’
Daubach is hitting .408 since the All-Star break, with 10 home runs in 26 games. He has 14 extra-base hits in his last 10 games. Yesterday afternoon, he was named American League Player of the Week. Last night, he was claiming a higher reward, a niche of Red Sox lore all his own, as improbable a story line as any heard in these parts in a long time.
Truth stranger than fiction? No, Sox manager Jimy Williams said, he has never heard of Joe Hardy, who sold his soul to the devil so the lowly Washington Senators could win the pennant in ``Damn Yankees.’’
``Is that a musical?’’ he said. ``No, I don’t know that story.’’
What does he know?
``I just think this kid is a very good hitter,’’ he said. ``He really is.’’