The way things are going, a reel of goofy, grainy videotape soon could become bigger than Big Yaz bread in the Impossible Dream season of 1967.
On a crazy afternoon of thrills and chills, the Red Sox yesterday may have adopted a new formula for success and touched on a whole new revenue stream, with Kevin Millar in line for a serious commission. They call it the “Rally Karaoke Guy” video, starring Millar dancing as a college freshman to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” And for the third straight game when the production crew flashed the bootleg video on the big screen in center field in the late innings, the Sox went home victorious.
Cut! Print! Sell!
“I’m terrible up there with my moves, but the Rally Karaoke Guy is 3-0, so we’ll take it,” said Millar, who made yesterday’s win the most thrilling of the three by driving in Damian Jackson with a two-out walkoff double in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Sox stung the Mariners, 7-6, before 34,488 at Fenway Park.
Who knows? Two years after the Angels introduced the Rally Monkey on their center field screen, they were world champions - and Rally Monkey dolls were a massive money maker. Could the Rally Karaoke Guy soon be sweeping New England?
“That is going to take a while,” manager Grady Little said when asked if the video is growing on him. “But we certainly like the results since they started showing it.”
No one liked the outcome more than Jackson, a bit player who took a turn on center stage after he singled to left off Seattle closer Kazuhiro Sasaki amid a 6-6 tie with one out in the 10th. A batter later, Millar sent a first-pitch fastball from Sasaki’s successor, lefthander Arthur Rhodes, to the 379-foot marker on the Monster.
“Talk about a game of inches,” Seattle manager Bob Melvin said.
Indeed, center fielder Mike Cameron leaped at the Wall, only for the ball to bounce off the webbing of his glove as Jackson sprinted around the bases.
“I thought [Millar] hit it good and it was going off the Wall,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t going to be the idiot caught watching.”
Instead, he became the celebrant in chief, leaping from one set of a teammate’s arms to another’s amid the ensuing scrum of joy. The victory guaranteed the Sox would awake this morning with a share of the wild-card lead intact after Oakland held off Toronto. The Rally Karaoke Guys also climbed to within five games of the Yankees in the American League East.
“Games like this mean something not just because of the victory,” said Mike Timlin, who picked up the win after pitching a perfect 10th. “They mean something as far as motivation. This gives guys some momentum.”
It hardly came easily, though. Leading, 6-5, in the ninth, closer Byung Hyun Kim twice came within one strike of finishing off the Mariners before trouble struck. First, he let Mark McLemore rip a 1-2 pitch to deep right field, where Trot Nixon typically would make the play as routinely as he laces his shoes. But Nixon lost the ball in the glare of the falling sun.
“I saw it come off the bat,” Nixon said, “but that was it.”
After the double, Kim put Cameron in an 0-2 hole before he left another pitch over the plate. Catcher Jason Varitek was set up outside and the ball zipped into Cameron’s wheelhouse.
“He just misfired his pitch,” Varitek said, “and [Cameron] did a good job of hitting it.”
He hit it for a run-scoring single that ultimately forced the extra inning - and blew Kim’s second save opportunity in his last three tries.
“It may be one of those days where I just had a bad performance,” Kim said interpreter Chang Lee, “but my confidence is still very good.”
Kim was in position for the save because the Sox rallied to overcome a 5-4 deficit in the seventh thanks to a solo homer by David Ortiz off Seattle fireballer Rafael Soriano and Varitek’s single off Armando Benitez to drive in Millar with the go-ahead run. Millar helped to set the stage by stealing his third base of the season after swiping only one base previously in his career.
Varitek lined an 0-2 pitch - a 93-mile-an-hour fastball - to left field for his first hit in six career at-bats against Benitez.
“He’s been pitching me pretty hard away quite a bit,” Varitek said. “I just kept swinging because I’ve swung through many balls against him. Finally, I made contact and was able to get a hit.”
Varitek also saved a run earlier in the game when he blocked the plate with his left leg to prevent John Mabry from scoring on a single by Cameron to end the fourth. It was the second time in a week Varitek has blocked the plate to erase a Seattle runner.
“I think Jason Varitek was probably the key to the whole game, even though he didn’t have anything to do with the last run we scored,” Sox starter John Burkett said, citing the pivotal hit and key tag at the plate. “He’s probably the best guy at blocking the plate in the league.”
The Sox also got a big lift from Timlin and his bullpen mates Scott Sauerbeck, Todd Jones, and Alan Embree, who combined to throw 3 1/3 scoreless innings after the Mariners tagged Burkett for five runs on eight hits and a walk over six innings.