Game 5 - ALCS
Red Sox 8, Rays 7
Red Sox trail 3-2
Four years from yesterday, to the day, the Sox got mauled by the Yankees to go down 3-0 in the ALCS. Five years from J.D. Drew's game-ending single, to the minute, Aaron Boone homered off Tim Wakefield and left me with the most sickening feeling I've ever experienced as a sports fan. After yesterday, it's fair to say that the Sox have rehabilitated October 16.
As SOSHer thrawnqq noted with some degree of awe in the game thread from last night's absurd ALCS Game 5, "...with what we have seen, it is hard to believe that we can still be amazed." And even so, I'm filled once again with a giddy absurdist glee, a most unexpected and intense joy.
Which, to be completely honest, is accompanied by a measure of chagrin. I admit that I stopped believing. The Sox were down 7-0 when I told my wife I was going to stay up to see the end of the season. Just like in 2004, I'd begun composing the season's eulogy in my head. The Sox were not just losing; they were getting embarrassed on their way to losing three straight at home to a team that was clearly better.
The Sox were dead. Dead. The crowd was leaving, the bench appeared to be lifeless. Thousands of people, including my neighbor, went to bed knowing the season was over. Teejay was gleefully texting me.
And then, like Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp walking across a river in a hail of gunfire, defiantly screaming "NO!", the Sox just refused to die. In the bottom of the 7th, Coco Crisp singled to put runners on first and third with two outs. Alive. Dustin Pedroia faced a 2-strike count before blooping a ball to right to deny the shutout. Alive. David Ortiz summoned his postseason aura one more time, blasting a no-doubt thunderbolt into deep right. Alive. Jonathan Papelbon blew the Rays away in the top of the 8th. Alive. Jason Bay walked to start the bottom of the 8th, and then J.D. Drew put one of the purest swings you'll ever see on a Dan Wheeler offering. 7-6, Rays. Alive. Mark Kotsay doubled with two outs, finally getting a ball past B.J. Upton. Alive. Crisp fought off pitch after pitch and ripped Wheeler's 10th offering to right to plate Kotsay. ALIVE!
Justin Masterson shook off a pair of baserunners in the top of the 9th. Alive. Kevin Youkilis chopped a ball to third with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, and Evan Longoria threw it away after making a splendid play with his glove. Alive, and Fenway buzzed with a low hum of contagious postseason expectation. And then, after Tampa walked Bay intentionally, Drew crushed a J.P. Howell changeup over rightfielder Gabe Gross' head to score Youkilis with the most improbable game-winner. ALIVE!!!
The second-greatest comeback in postseason history now ranks as the third-greatest playoff game in my memory - and only because the stakes are thismuch lower after two championships in four seasons. Tampa's still the odds-on favorite to go through to the World Series, but the Sox are alive. And I've once again learned that this era's Sox don't go gently into that good night.
Man, baseball is a great game.