Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello will never forget his early October start in Minnesota a decade ago. It’s not every day a player has a chance to start a Game 163.
The final regular-season game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on Oct. 6, 2009, not only served as a goodbye to the Twins’ old home, but also was a tiebreaker to decide the American League Central Division champion.
With a playoff berth on the line, the Tigers handed the ball to a 20-year-old rookie.
Porcello lasted 5⅔ innings and gave up one earned run as the Tigers took an early lead. Then the Twins surged late to snatch away the lead. The two teams continued to trade runs.
“Three or four times throughout that game, I was absolutely convinced we had either won the game or lost the game,” Porcello recalled, a decade later.
The Tigers ended up losing, 6-5, in the 12th inning.
The length and back-and-forth nature aren’t the main reasons this game stands out to Porcello, though. It was the Metrodome.
“The noise and the atmosphere was something I have never experienced before and still, to this day, don’t think I have experienced since,” Porcello said.
For that reason, despite the loss, Porcello picked this when asked about the greatest game in which he has ever played.
Greatest game took on different meanings with different players. Whether it be production, the stage, or the content of the actual game, Red Sox players produced a variety of answers, able to select any one of the thousands of baseball games in their careers.
Red Sox infielder Brock Holt might have peaked in elementary school.
He has not since matched the day he had one summer while playing for an all-star team from his birthplace, Fort Worth, Texas. He can’t remember how old he was, but he knows it was a youth league where players were not old enough to pitch.
With coaches lobbing pitches to the plate, Holt drove in 14 runs on three grand slams and a two-run home run.
“I just kept coming up with the bases loaded,” Holt said. “I would hit like a line drive ground ball down the third base line, and it would roll all the way to the fence and kids would go get it while I would run around the bases.”
That’s right — none of his home runs ever cleared the fences.
His mom made sure to keep a ball from the game to commemorate the outing. Holt, however, doesn’t know where it is now that he is 31. Either way, he still relishes the memory.
“I kind of wish our coaches still pitched to us,” Holt said. “I feel like it would be easier to hit.”
Catcher Sandy Leon starting talking about the 2018 World Series when trying to think of a greatest game. Then, he remembered the marathon game he played at age 12.
Leon, a Venezuelan, faced rival Mexico in a Little League game. Unlike most seven-inning games he played at that age, this one spanned 17. That’s how long it took for Venezuela to beat Mexico in the championship.
Leon couldn’t remember if he produced a big hit, but he believes he had several in the prolonged game.
“That was kind of crazy,” Leon said. “And representing my country, Venezuela, at that time [made it great].”
Outfielder Andrew Benintendi’s selection for greatest game did not require near as far of a look back. Many Red Sox fans will probably remember it quite well.
The Yankees needed a win on Sept. 15, 2016, to remain in contention for a wild-card playoff spot. They arrived in Boston for Game 146, the first of a four-game series.
Early on, the Yankees looked primed to win it, too. After the fourth inning, New York held a 5-1 lead. And the Red Sox only managed one run through the next four innings.
Then the ninth inning arrived.
Mookie Betts and David Ortiz each hit RBI singles that brought the Red Sox within one. Then Hanley Ramirez whacked a home run to center to give Boston the 7-5, come-from-behind victory.
The Red Sox swept the series, and the Yankees missed the playoffs.
Considering the strength of the Yankee bullpen, Benintendi said the rally made this game stand out in his mind. And what made the memory sweeter?
“It was a division game against the Yankees,” Benintendi said.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
There was no back and forth. No need for a rally. No drama, either.
The final score on June 22, 2010, was 11-4.
Jackie Bradley Jr. even hit a home run for the University of South Carolina in an eight-run inning. That was fine, and all, but what the game signified made it great to Bradley.
He selected this College World Series game against Arizona State as his answer because the Sun Devils came into the game the No. 1 seed in the tournament and the No. 1 team in the country.
“We were playing really good ball,” Bradley said. “We had a lot of fun.”
What made it even more fun for Bradley was South Carolina’s run of victories over No. 1 teams. In the same calendar year, the football team defeated No. 1 Alabama, 35-21, and the men’s basketball team edged No. 1 Kentucky, 68-62.
Only the baseball team, which won its final five games following that day, however, celebrated a national championship.
Designated hitter J.D. Martinez could have chosen either of the two Florida state championships his high school won. Instead, he picked a state semifinal game from May 27, 2005.
Flanagan High School, Martinez’s alma mater, defeated Palm Beach Gardens, 6-5.
Flanagan jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but Palm Beach Gardens matched Flanagan for the next several innings. The Flanagan run that stands out the most to Martinez came when a ball ricocheted off the catcher’s mask and back to the pitcher.
“It was the craziest thing,” Martinez said.
Martinez finished the game off with a sliding catch in the outfield, stranding two runners on base after Palm Beach Gardens had made it a one-run game by scoring twice in the seventh .
There was no need for a seventh inning rally from Flanagan. In his choice for greatest game, Martinez made sure of that.
Great is a fitting label for complete-game shutouts, which is why reliever Josh Taylor didn’t have to think long.
He went the distance for the Mobile (Ala.) BayBears on July 5, 2016, his Double A debut: Nine innings, three hits, no earned runs and five strikeouts in a 10-0 victory.
“That might be the single game that really stood out to me,” Taylor said. “Being able to go through the whole game and stay strong through the whole nine innings.”