March 17, 2005

ALDS Game 3: Boston 8, Anaheim 6 (10)

It's Friday, October 8 and the Boston Herald has this on its front page:

At the time, the Yankees and Twins are tied 1-1. With the Red Sox not yet having dispatched the Angels, it's pretty ballsy.

For Game 3 of the ALDS, hitting coach Ron Jackson says Boston needs to force Kelvim Escobar to throw 20-25 pitches per inning, run his pitch count up by the middle innings. The totals for the first three innings: 24-21-32. ... Escobar gets squeezed by the home plate ump, especially in the first inning; he also walks the leadoff man in each of the first three innings.

The Red Sox leave two men on in each of those innings, but they do bring two home in the third, as Mark Bellhorn walks, scoots to third on David Ortiz's double off the wall and scores on Trot Nixon's single to center. Ortiz then scores on Kevin Millar's ground out to second.

(Re Bellhorn: Chris Berman again mentions Bellhorn breaking the Sox season strikeout record and says Butch Hobson set the record "in 1985". As I pointed out in an earlier post, Hobson's last major league game was in 1982 (his last game for the Red Sox was in 1980.) This is clearly the most important tidbit ESPN has on Bellhorn, so it's amazing that Berman gets it so wrong every single time. ... Berman also butchers the nickname Johnny Damon has given the team. They are known far and wide as "The Idiots," but Berman consistently refers to them as either "The Happy Idiots" or "The Traveling Idiots.")

Bill Mueller starts off the 4th by reaching on an error by Chone Figgins, who is now at second base and still having a nightmare of a series. Johnny Damon bloops a single over short and Bellhorn comes up with men at 1st and 2nd. It sounds like Berman and Rick Sutcliffe are making fun of Tony Gwynn's overwhelming desire to see Boston bunt. And when asked if Bellhorn should sacrifice, Gwynn says, "I would!"

It is pointed out that of Boston's 12 sacrifice bunts all year -- and half of those were by Pokey Reese! I didn't know that. Six other guys had one apiece: Bellhorn, Gabe Kapler, Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts, Bronson Arroyo and Derek Lowe. ... Escobar walks Bellhorn on five pitches to load the bases. Manny Ramirez flies to deep left and Mueller scores (Boston 3-1) and Escobar is pulled, after 91 pitches in 3.1 innings. Scot Shields gives up another double to Ortiz (4-1) and walks Nixon intentionally. Millar grounds to shortstop, and Eckstein tries to force Ortiz at third, but his shovel pass is late. Bellhorn scores on the error (5-1).

During the 4th, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler is interviewed in the stands, saying this is the Red Sox's year. When asked why, he says, "Well, look what they're doing. Look at this. It's insane ..."

Singles by Mueller, Damon and Ramirez give Boston a 6-1 lead in the fifth and Berman -- saying the Angels are running out of outs -- starts wondering how Sox fans will feel if they end up playing the Twins in the ALCS and win the World Series, will it have the same magic? Or if Boston does beat the Yankees for the pennant, but loses the Series to, say, St. Louis, will that still count as some sort of victory?

Anaheim 7th: Arroyo walks Jeff "Yogurt" Davanon on five pitches and is pulled. Mike Myers jogs in and walks pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman on five pitches. Boo. ... Adam Riggs is announced as another pinch-hitter and now it's Timlin's turn. He gets Curtis Pride, who is sent up for Riggs, to pop to Cabrera near second base. In noting the pinch-hitters, Sutcliffe says Mike Scioscia is just trying to turn the lineup over, "maybe get Vlad up there as the tying run or something." ... Eckstein slaps a little flair (on an 0-2 pitch) into right field to load the bases with one out. Leadoff hitter Figgins is an easy second out, striking out on three pitches.

Now it's lefty Darin Erstad. Francona has Embree in the pen, but he stays with Timlin. Erstad has only about six AB against both guys, but he has hit Embree a little better. The pitches:
Foul, 3b side, 0-1
Sinking fastball off the plate and low, about 90, swing and miss, 0-2 (crowd howling, on its feet)
Fastball up, with Varitek in that half-crouch that almost never gets the hitter to chase upstairs, taken, 1-2
Off-speed down and away, fouled down left field line, 1-2
Tek out to talk to Timlin. Sutcliffe: "You don't want to face the guy on deck [Guererro] as the tying run." Duh.
Ball outside, 2-2
Ball at 86, high, 3-2
Ball four, just high and outside, run scores, now 6-2, Guererro up as tying run.
After Timlin jams Vlad with a fastball in, which Guererro takes a mighty cut at and misses, Sutcliffe says the "last thing he [Timlin] wants to do is leave a ball out over the plate." Timlin's next pitch is a fastball left out over the plate and Guererro pounds the fuck out of it -- sending it well over Nixon's head into the suddenly-silent bleachers, tying the game at 6-6. ... Embree comes in and gets the third out.

Boston 8th: Francisco Rodriguez strikes out Bellhorn on four pitches and Ramirez on three. The ESPN guys are busy telling us -- Red Sox fans -- how we feel. We are scared now, because if Boston loses this game, then we have to win Game 4 or fly back to Anaheim. There was a lot of hand-wringing in the next day's papers how when Guererro hit the slam, we all supposedly moaned, "Here we go again," but this wasn't Game 5. It was Game 3 -- there was no doomsday scenario going on. Thankfully, ESPN stays out of that mode of thinking, for the most part. ... At the time of the Slam, I just remember being annoyed.

With two outs, Ortiz beats the Angels' shift, getting a single on a grounder to deep second base. Sutcliffe says Francona must pinch-run for Papi now: "I make the move, 1 out, no outs, 2 outs. You've already got your closer [Foulke] in the game." Gwynn disagrees: "You don't want to take one of the best batters out now to get a run, and deny him a chance to win the game later." ... Maybe you run if it's the 9th or you are trailing, but neither of those things is true right now. ... Tito keeps Tiz in the game and after Nixon walks, Doug Mientkiewicz grounds into a force play to end the inning.

Foulke has a rough 9th inning. Eckstein flies to left, but Figgins singles, Erstad doubles and Guererro is walked intentionally. Bases loaded, one out. Garret Anderson just needs to loft a fly ball over the infield somewhere to give Anaheim the lead. Foulke starts him off with two inside fastballs, one taken for a strike and one fouled off. His third pitch is up and in, knocking Anderson off the plate, not close enough to hit him (which would force a run home), but to set him up for his next pitch. Varitek sets up inside, making some extra motion so Anderson knows where he is, then deftly hopping out to the outside corner as Foulke goes into his motion. The pitch is a changeup, about 75, low and away. Anderson waves at it and strikes out.

Troy Glaus is next. He's a hit a couple of absolute bombs in this series, but he's also had a number of pitches called strikes that has had Scioscia fuming (to me, his hangdog look always makes him look like he's about to cry). Glaus misses the first pitch, then takes a ball up and in. Foulke's pitching him the same way as Anderson. His 1-1 pitch is on the outside corner, and it's called a strike. The Angels, as Don Orsillo would say, are not enamored of the call. ... Down 1-2, Glaus checks his swing on a pitch down and in, but is called out anyway by the first base ump. End of inning.

Boston goes 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th and Anaheim threatens again in the 10th. They are now facing Derek Lowe, who was dropped from the playoff rotation in favor of Arroyo (5-0, 3.78 in his last nine starts; Boston won all nine of those games). The crowd is loudly chanting, "Let's go, D-Lowe! Let's go, D-Lowe!" His first pitch, to Davanon, is crushed to straight away center. Shit. ... Damon races back -- hair flying everywhere -- and grabs it right in front of the wall. Whew.

Lowe then walks Jose Molina, and after Mueller's bare-handed play on a bunt, he gives up a single to Eckstein. ... Mueller's play was perfect. He took a couple of slow steps, gauging how fast and where the ball was rolling, then sprinted in, grabbed it and fired. With the go-ahead run at third, Figgins chops the ball to short. Cabrera runs in, makes a basket catch at his waist and guns it to first, just beating Figgins and ending the inning.

K-Rod starts the bottom of the 10th -- his third inning of relief -- and he's spent. Damon lines a 1-1 pitch up the middle for a single. Bellhorn bunts -- hey, Tony, it makes sense NOW -- and Figgins (now back at third, as of the 7th inning) grabs it and throws wildly to second. The 66-inch tall Eckstein dives to the left field side of the base and just manages to catch the ball and keep his toe on the bag. One out. Ramirez goes down meekly -- the last pitch a fastball that split the plate -- for the second out.

Scioscia has Troy Percival and Game 1 starter Jarrod Washburn waiting in the pen. Percival hasn't pitched in the series yet and Ortiz is supposedly weaker against lefties, so in comes Washburn. ... Back in Game 1, Ortiz mashed Washburn's first pitch for an RBI-single; he walked on four pitches in his next at-bat against him. ... Ortiz sees just one pitch -- up and out over the plate -- and he pounds it into the Monster Seats for a game-winning home run.

Ortiz rasies his right fist as he jogs the bases -- a huge smile on his face -- as the dugout spills out to greet him at the plate. It's a beautiful scene -- especially where he slaps the batting helmet off his head just before hopping into the throng. I happily rewind the DVD (can you do that to a DVD?) to see it a few more times.

ALCS Rewind starts on Monday.

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