NEW YORK — John McDonald hasn’t been around the Red Sox very long. But he’s been on a lot of teams and in a short time he’s come to learn the team he’s now a part of is pretty special.
“I mean, these guys get to the ballpark for a night game at noon,” McDonald said Friday night after the Sox’ 12-8 comeback win over the Yankees, their second straight to start the series. “They have a lot of fun together. They care about each other. I’m looking around the faces, because for me that tells me a lot about the character of the teams I’ve been on.
“We were down, 8-3, and Andy Pettitte was pitching really well. I didn’t see a change in anyone. It was almost as if they were oblivious to the lead the Yankees had and everyone kind of went about their business and almost gave it a ‘So we’re down by five, so what?’
“The last two games have been amazing to watch here. The fact we lost the lead and got it back and won, the fact that we were down and came back. You don’t see teams do that a lot. Once you lose the lead you usually get down and you lose the game. Two games like that in this setting, in this situation, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this.”
What can you conclude other than that something special is going on here?
When Pedro Martinez, who made an appearance at Yankee Stadium Friday, talks about this team being a lot like the 2004 Sox team, you listen and it makes sense. Oh, this group isn’t as crazy and wild as that one, but is Jonny Gomes not Kevin Millar? Does Shane Victorino not have a little Johnny Damon in him?
There is no Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling. But Koji Uehara is every bit Kevin Foulke and better. And lately we’re thinking of Quintin Berry as Dave Roberts, which is truly unfair.
I don’t know how to explain these last two games, but the Sox’ never-give-in attitude and their resilience have been an eye-opener.
Think about it. Down, 8-3, to Pettitte, who did all he could to get through the sixth.
The Sox knew, according to manager John Farrell, that neither Dave Robertson nor Mariano Rivera were available. So once you got into the Yankees’ secondary relievers, there was hope.
The Yankees had to go with Phil Hughes, who was demoted from the starting rotation, and four of the first five batters he faced reached base and scored.
Boone Logan, a fairly reliable lefthander, struck out David Ortiz with a called third strike on a slider. Then up came Mike Napoli, who deposited a grand slam over a leaping Ichiro Suzuki in right, the ball hitting the top of the wall and bouncing into the bleachers.
Ichiro slightly mistimed his leap; otherwise he would have caught it. Another break for the Red Sox, who got a few in Thursday’s 9-8 win, including when umpires didn’t call strike three on Napoli on a 2-2 pitch that would have ended the game. Instead Napoli singled to spark a rally.
Victorino followed Napoli’s game-tying grand slam Friday with a two-run homer to left in the eighth, batting righthanded against Preston Claiborne, who was absolutely awful for the second straight night.
Victorino, a switch-hitter, is crushing the baseball hitting righthanded against everyone. Since Aug. 17 he’s batting .382 with five doubles, seven homers, and 19 RBI. Victorino is avoiding batting lefthanded to take it easy on his ailing hamstring/leg/back.
“Nothing he does surprises me anymore,” Farrell said. “We see Shane do things we never anticipated. He’s been an amazing player for us.”
Napoli has always played his best in September. Playing on a one-year contract, Napoli wants to remain a Red Sox and for a while it didn’t seem as though that was going to be possible. But Napoli keeps making a case for himself. He’s had huge hits. He’s hit three grand slams this season.
“I’m happy to see that Mike is hot again,” said David Ortiz. “It makes us a better team. We need his power in the lineup. He’s a good hitter.”
This has been an incredible stretch for the Red Sox. Taking two out of three against Tigers, including the eight-homer, 20-4 thrashing in the rubber match at Fenway Wednesday night, and two wins already in this four-game series.
The Sox are 7-1 in their last eight, 11-2 in their last 13, and 13-4 in their last 17. They are 9-5 against the Yankees this year.
“I’ve never seen anything like the last two games,” said Daniel Nava. “To win these games it means we had to beat Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte and both are pitching great. We face Mariano in the ninth inning, he gets two quick outs and you’re ‘Oh my God’ and then Nap gets a big hit and here we go.
“We can do this. That’s our whole attitude. We can do this. We don’t want it to go this long [game time], but we’ll take it. We do what we have to do.”
Ortiz, the last man standing from the 2004 team, agreed that this Sox team has many of the same traits as that one.
“Absolutely,” he said. “In spring training that year nobody gave us a chance to win and I heard the same stuff this year. People counted us out and what we did was unexpected. We’re on our way to doing that again.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.