Boston Sports Forum Commentary
Del N. Jones
BOSTON-In an American League Championship Series game that neither team seemed to want bad enough, the Boston Red Sox lived to play another day after a two-run, walkoff home run by David Ortiz in the bottom of the 12th inning for a 6-4 win over the New York Yankees in Game 4.
It was the perfect way for the Red Sox to end the longest game in League Championship Series history. With five hours and two minutes worth of rival diamond play Boston made the Yankees pay for leaving 14 men on base and giving up a lead in the bottom of the ninth inning that would have won the best-of-7 series with a satisfying four-game sweep.
What did the Red Sox win with their latest dramatics? A Game 5 date with the Bombers today at 5 p.m. at Fenway Park for the right to travel back to Yankee Stadium for Game 6 and 7.
But for now, last night’s first win of the series was enough for a Red Sox club trying to be the first team in playoff baseball history to come back from a 0-3 deficit.
“It’s 3-1,” Terry Francona reminded the media moments after watching his club win a game that didn’t end until 1:23 a.m. “We set out (Sunday) to win. That was our objective and somehow we did. Now our objective is to win (today). That’s all we have in front of us.”
It took almost the entire roster to make that happen.
Derek Lowe began the game with solid command of his pitches in the elimination setting, which seemed like a lifetime ago with the nine relievers that followed him from both bullpens. The sinkerballer kept the Yankees lineup that scored 19 runs just the night before, scoreless after the first two frames with two strikeouts to his credit along the way.
Lowe would have completed three scoreless innings if not for a two-out single by Derek Jeter that extended the inning long enough for Alex Rodriguez to send a two-run home run over the Green Monster in left field for the first runs of the game.
Jeter hit a hotshot right at third baseman Bill Mueller, who tried but couldn’t field it cleanly as the ball bounced into the outfield. It was scored a single and A-Rod and the Yankees would take advantage on Lowe’s next pitch for a 2-0 lead.
Early on it looked like the Sox would continue having difficulty generating any offense in the first six innings, similar to the first two games of the series, but in the fifth Boston plated three runs and took the lead. Kevin Millar and Mark Bellhorn walked in between a pair of fielder’s choice outs by Mueller and Johnny Damon. The Sox scored on a two-out, RBI single by Orlando Cabrera and then added two more when David Ortiz provided a single after a Manny Ramirez walk.
The Yankee offense wasn’t sharp either, but they responded immediately. New York retook the lead in the next atbat in the top of the sixth. The visitors used a triple by Hideki Matsui and RBI infield singles by Bernie Williams and Tony Clark to post two more runs and a 4-3 advantage heading into the final three innings.
The score would remain the same into the bottom of the ninth with the Sox looking like they would accept the meek sweep route to end a disappointing season until small ball got them into extra innings. Millar led off the last atbat with another walk only this time he was quickly replaced by speedy Dave Roberts as a pinch runner.
After coming dangerously close to being picked off at first, Roberts took advantage of a slow delivery to the plate by closer Mariano Rivera and a wide left throw by catcher Jorge Posada and stole second with no outs. Mueller (2-for-5, RBI, run scored) singled in Roberts to tie things at four.
Boston could have won the game outright in the bottom of the ninth, but Ortiz popped out with the bases loaded to force extra innings. The Yanks squandered a late bases loaded opportunity as well when Williams flied out to centerfield, stranding Miguel Cairo (single), Gary Sheffield (walk) and Matsui (intentional walk) in the top of the 11th.
But Ortiz was the one, who grabbed of the final opportunity. The designated hitter followed Ramirez’ single with a line drive into the right field bullpens off of Paul Quantrill, giving the Sox another 27 outs today.
“This team never gives up,” Ortiz said. “We had a whole bunch of games coming from behind like that and (we) played hard. Even if we lose the game, we still play the game right. We just keep playing.”
A homer into the early morning has allowed Boston to do just that.
Commentaries by Del N. Jones are posted on Boston Sports Forum on Mondays. His weekend columns can also be read in the Saturday/Sunday edition of The Patriot Ledger or at patriotledger.com.