As the Green Monster Mash lurched toward midnight, there were two Brush Hill Transit buses parked on Van Ness Street. A Delta 727 was on the tarmac at Logan Airport, waiting to take the Red Sox back to Cleveland and into history.
All the Sox players had brought their suitcases to Fenway Park. They’d packed toothbrushes, razors, socks, underwear, jackets, ties, and lucky charms . . . four days’ worth of stuff. Last night was going to be either their famous final scene, or the beginning of a journey that would take them to Cleveland and (gulp) maybe even New York.
On a night that was both historic and hysterical, the Red Sox pummeled the Indians, 23-7, to force tonight’s fifth and deciding playoff game, in Cleveland, starting at 8:17. The Tribe has Charles Nagy ready to pitch. Sox manager Jimy Williams will go with Bret Saberhagen. Or maybe he’ll shock the world and send Pedro Martinez to the hill.
Or Lonborg and Champagne.
``Certainly we feel good,’’ said Williams. ``Especially after being behind, 2-0. It’s a one-gamer now.’’
What happened on the Fenway lawn in Game 4 long will be remembered by the legions of Red Sox Nation. Boston put 18 runs on the board in the first five innings. After seven, the Sox line score read, 2-5-3-5-3-0-3, which represents the phone number of a Cambridge professor. Perhaps a math professor, or one who deals in other weird science. We didn’t bother to leave a message.
Men have been playing postseason baseball since 1901 when the Red Sox beat the Pirates in the first World Series at the Huntington Grounds . . . but no team in playoff history scored as many runs as the Red Sox did last night. Nineteen NFL teams yesterday failed to score as much as the Red Sox did.
``Everything we threw up, they hit, and where it came down, we weren’t standing,’’ said Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove.
``We’ll savor this victory tonight,’’ said Williams. ``A key victory in a playoff game. We did some nice things offensively.’’
It was hard to believe. Playoff baseball is supposed to be tight. This was loose, like a backyard Wiffle ball game between siblings.
Yeah, Wiffle ball. That’s when you get scores like 23-7. That’s when you get 24 hits by one team in a single game.
Consider one John Valentin. In the first four innings he hit two homers, a single, and a bases-loaded double. That’s 4 for 4 with two homers and seven RBIs in four innings. And that came on the heels of his Game 3 performance when he homered and doubled, knocking in three runs. This means that in a seven-inning stretch over two games, Valentin went 6 for 7 with three homers, two doubles, and 10 RBIs. Let’s see somebody do that again in postseason play.
The Sox chased Bartolo Colon, scoring seven runs before the Cleveland ace could get a man out in the second inning. The routing of Colon put a ton of pressure on the Tribe and its beleaguered manager, Hargrove. Cleveland won the first two games of this series and the Sox were presumed dead when they went to work Saturday without stars Pedro Martinez (back) and Nomar Garciaparra (wrist). Dealing with a suddenly depleted pitching staff, Hargrove sacrificed young Jaret Wright in a 9-3 Saturday loss, then brought back Colon with only three days of rest. It’s the first time all year Colon pitched without four days off and the Dominican fireballer had nothing.
``I don’t think the short rest had anything to do with it,’’ offered Hargrove.
It was heaven for Boston fans. They spent the day worrying about rain and Nomar’s wrist, but by 9:15 it was 10-2, Nomar was looking OK, and Sox Watchers were contemplating tonight’s starting pitcher.
It will be interesting to see how much psychological damage the Red Sox inflicted with their Game 4 barrage. By mid-game last night, it looked like the Indians had quit. All their pitchers seem to be hurt and there was little resistance to the Sox onslaught. Manny Ramirez, who knocked in 165 runs this year, is hitless for the series.
Nagy certainly could bail out the Tribe in Game 5. Last night’s runs won’t help the Sox in a close game tonight any more than the Indians were able to borrow from their 11-1 rout of the Red Sox in Game 2.
Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar said, ``It was embarrassing and humiliating, but none of those runs mean anything tomorrow. It will be 0-0.’’
``Tonight was a special night for the Red Sox,’’ said Valentin. ``We came out swinging the bats pretty good. There’s quite a bit of excitement in the clubhouse, but everybody’s put everything in perspective. Like Sandy said, it’s going to be 0-0 when we play and we gotta do it again.’’
Sox fans were chanting ``Ped-ro, Ped-ro, Pe-dro’’ at 11:20 as the 22d run crossed the plate. Then they switched to ``We Want Pedro!’’ It was a happy ending to what could be the final game at Fenway in this century.
But there might be more. One more win tonight and it’ll be Red Sox-Yankees, best-of-seven, and a chance to exorcise some of the Pinstripe Ghosts that have haunted Olde Fenway for 81 years.