New England is at once sleepless, breathless, and full of hope. David Ortiz and the Red Sox just beat the Yankees in two extra-inning playoff games on the same calendar day. This century-long Sox-Yankee show, featuring themes of revenge and redemption, moves back to New York tonight.
In perhaps the most thrilling and torturous postseason game in 104 years of Red Sox baseball, the Sox last night beat the Yankees, 5-4, when the mythic Ortiz singled home Johnny Damon from second base in the bottom of the 14th at 10:59 p.m. It was the longest game in League Championship Series history (5 hours 49 minutes) and came less than 23 hours after the same Ortiz cracked a walkoff homer to win Game 4 at 1:22 yesterday morning.
The Hub has never seen two days of baseball drama like this.
``Being down, 3-0, and being down the last two nights shows the depth, the character, the heart, the guts of our ball club,’’ said winning pitcher Tim Wakefield, the seventh Sox hurler of the night. ``And it took every ounce of whatever we had left to win tonight’s game and to win last night’s game.’’
Boston is ecstatic and exhausted. The Sox and Yankees just played 26 innings - almost 11 hours of toe-to-toe action - but there’s no time to rest. Attempting to go where no big league team has gone, the Sons of Tito Francona go back to New York tonight to resume this best-of-seven series. No baseball team has survived a 3-0 series deficit.
Curt Schilling gets the ball for Game 6 and all eyes will be on the customized black shoe on his right foot, designed to relieve stress on his balky ankle.
If the boot works, the slipper may fit. And maybe this time it’ll be the Yankees turning into pumpkins in October.
The Yankees have to be wondering what hit them the last two nights at Fenway. New York embarrassed the Red Sox, 19-8, Saturday, taking what looked like an insurmountable lead in the series. But now the Sox have pushed the issue back to the Apple and both teams have depleted bullpens.
``We used basically everybody,’’ said Francona. ``To get shutout innings from your bullpen for that amount of time is unbelievable. Wakefield right in the middle of it. In that last inning, he was on fumes. He pitched the last inning on heart. Everybody was on fumes. You saw two really good teams that competed with a lot of heart.’’
Parity? Since the start of 2003, including postseason, the Sox and Yankees have played 50 games, each winning 25.
``We’re very evenly matched,’’ said Yankees manager Joe Torre. ``We have a lot of intensity on both sides of this thing and it takes on a life of its own. Each game is a series with these two clubs.’’
Game 5 featured 35 players, including 14 pitchers. Wakefield, the man who was on the mound when the Yankees broke the Sox’ hearts in 2003, dazzled New York with three innings of one-hit, shutout, shout-out relief.
``I just tried to keep us in the game as long as possible,’’ said Wakefield. ``I got through the third inning clean and David did a great job again.’’
The winning rally started when slumping Damon (2 for 24) drew a one-out walk off Esteban Loaiza in the bottom of the 14th. With two outs, Manny Ramirez (no RBIs in 21 at-bats) walked to push Damon to second.
Enter Ortiz, a.k.a. ``Papi,’’ who can lay claim to being the most clutch performer in Sox history. He already has 9 RBIs in five games. He worked the count to 2-and-2, then started fouling off pitches. On the 10th pitch from Loaiza, Ortiz dumped a single into center and again there was bedlam on the Fenway lawn.
Neither team had scored since the Sox rallied from a 4-2 deficit and put two runs on the board in the bottom of the eighth.
It’s almost hard to believe that Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina were the starting pitchers of Game 5.
The Sox got two runs in the first, scoring when Ortiz singled home Orlando Cabrera and Jason Varitek walked with the bases loaded. Boston didn’t get another runner to third base until the eighth.
Martinez was not sharp. He failed to register a 1-2-3 inning. Bernie Williams cut the lead to 2-1 with a homer leading off the second. In the sixth, Derek Jeter whistled a three-run double down the right-field line off Pedro and it looked like the Yankees might win, 4-2.
The Red Sox tied the game with a pair in the bottom of the eighth. Ortiz, a one-man wrecking ball, homered off Tom Gordon to lead off the inning. Kevin Millar walked, and for the second straight night, Dave Roberts pinch ran for Millar. With Roberts running on the pitch, Trot Nixon cracked a single to center, sending Roberts to third. That was it for Gordon. Enter Mariano Rivera.
For the second straight game, Rivera blew a save, this time when Varitek hit a sacrifice fly to center. That was the end of the scoring until the 14th.
Both teams had several opportunities to win. The Sox were foiled by runners caught stealing and their inability to bunt. The Sox were almost beaten by passed balls when Varitek had trouble handling Wakefield’s knuckler in the 13th. Hideki Matsui made it all the way to third on three passed balls (including one as Gary Sheffield struck out) but was stranded when Ruben Sierra struck out and Varitek caught the pitch. After falling behind, three games to none in Saturday’s embarrassing loss, the Sox wanted to make sure the Yankees would not win the American League pennant on the sacred sod of Fenway. They managed to do more than that. They have the Yankees on the run. And Schilling gets the ball tonight.
``It’s a chance to get us closer to the World Series,’’ said Schilling. ``It’s a chance to make up for Game 1. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I never mentally shut it down after that game.
``This has been so much more than I imagined it to be. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s never over in these games until you get the last out. It’s just something special.’’
It was certainly a special couple of days at Fenway. Now the Sox resume tonight, attempting to make history and bring the World Series back to Fenway for Game 1 Saturday night.