ALCS Game 5: I’m a believer!
I went into Game 5 knowing that it would either be a wake or a party, and that whichever it was to be, I had to be there. An excellent omen: I called the box office that morning to find that one of my favorite field box singles was available!
I made my way in in time for BP, of course.
Josh Beckett and Dustin Pedroia. “Don’t bite your fingernails!”
Kevin Cash, Gary Tuck, and David Ross trek in from the bullpen.
Devern Hansack, Justin Masterson and Manny Delcarmen, waiting too far out in center to have to do much of anything.
The Sox spared no opportunity to remind us of past comebacks pregame, not only in the montage from 2004 that still leaves me sobbing, but in bringing out history in the flesh for first pitch!
Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound for the Sox, and the battle began.
Akinori Iwamura and Jason Varitek.
It didn’t start well for the Sox. Aki singled…
And BJ Upton homered. Two batters, two runs.
Carlos didn’t fish for that one, but he did strike out.
The switch to Scott Kazmir might have given Sox fans hope, but he would pitch six scoreless innings.
Even Dustin Pedroia, the littlest MVP, could get nothing going.
The wind whipped the flag and the banner. “Don’t forget,” it challenged us. “Keep the faith.”
But Carlos Pena wouldn’t strike out his second time up.
And Evan Longoria followed with a home run of his own.
While Jed Lowrie grounded into a fielder’s choice…
… to be stranded on second with nothing to show.
Hideki Okajima came in after Aki walked to pitch the fifth and sixth, allowing no runs.
But Manny Delcarmen walked the two batters he faced in the seventh…
… resulting in the call to Jonathan Papelbon.
After a double steal, Paps allowed both of Manny’s runners to score on a BJ Upton double. 7-0 Rays, top of the seventh. Backs to the wall.
But Fenway’s an amazing place. And you could feel the spirit of the park stir. No cowbells, no thundersticks, no exhortation from the scoreboard to “Make some noise!” Just the passion and the life’s blood of the faithful, the ones who love and support this team, the ones who believe.
Kazmir gave way to Grant Balfour. Jed Lowrie got it started with a double. Tek and Kotsay flied out, but Coco singled, Pedie singled (knocking Lowrie in), and then came Big Papi.
And after a three-run homer, the drive was on. Papelbon had three up, three down. Jason Bay would walk on four straight pitches from Wheeler before J.D. Drew drilled a pitch out of the park. Lowrie and Casey made outs before Mark Kotsay doubled to center field.
And then came Coco.
Coco Crisp. Overlooked, perhaps, in the rush to anoint Jacoby Ellsbury prince of center field, but a gamer and a man possessed of a fierce and determined heart. Coco had a magnificent at-bat, working a full count, fouling off four consecutive pitches, and finally lacing a single to right, scoring Kotsay and tying the game. Fenway was in a frenzy of Dionysian proportions.
We’d had Papelbon for all he was worth–but we needed a closer. And we turned to Justin Masterson.
Jason Bartlett singled, and got a lot of attention at first,
but instead of bunting him over, Aki flied out. Upton walked, but Pena hit into a marvelously scripted double play.
How to explain the ninth? Pedie, our MVP, grounded out. Ortiz, our heart, struck out. Then came Kevin Youkilis, who gutted out a ten-pitch at-bat that ended in an infield single, thrown away by Longoria to put Youk on second. Jay Bay was intentionally walked… in order to face J.D. Drew.
It seemed as though Drew might not get a pitch in the strike zone…
But he did.
And Fenway erupted.
Who knows what tonight will bring? I only know this–I’ll be there for my team until the last pitch is thrown.
I’m a believer.