The season was just about over.
It was the top of the fifth inning, the Red Sox trailed 4-1; Matt Clement was struggling and the Jays had the bases loaded. Terry Francona, late yet again with his call to the pen, had just told Mike Myers and Chad Bradford to start warming. The Yankees were leading Baltimore 6-0 and Cleveland was up 6-0 on Tampa.
A base hit from Gabe Gross would likely score two runs, put Boston down by five on a night when every single Sock looked like his mind were elsewhere. ... Clement threw a strike to Gross, then missed with his next three. His 3-1 pitch was up and away -- probably ball four, forcing in a run -- but Gross swung at it anyway, and missed. He fouled off the next pitch, then grounded out to Kevin Millar at first.
The escape didn't guarantee a Sox comeback, of course, but a possible season-ending bullet had been dodged.
In the bottom of the sixth, David Ortiz (0-for-2, 2 strikeouts) grounded a ball to second base. Aaron Hill was about to field it when shortstop Russ Adams, playing over that way because of the shift, cut in front of him, gloved the ball, and tumbled onto the Fenway grass. No throw was made.
Scott Downs was taken out of the game and Justin Frasor was brought in. For whatever reason, Downs had mystified the Sox. A new pitcher meant possibilities. ... Manny Ramirez looked at a strike, then drilled his 42nd home run, into the Jays bullpen. Now Boston trailed by only one, 4-3, with 12 outs to go, but it felt like we had taken the lead.
Mike Myers faced five batters in relief of Clement, wriggling out of trouble in the sixth; after walking Vernon Wells intentionally (with Adams at second), he got Corey Koskie to fly to center.
With one out in the seventh, Jonathan Papelbon took the hill. He allowed a two-out double to Alex Rios, on a ball dropped down the right field line that Trot Nixon failed to hustle after. Once he saw Rios stretching the hit, he tried to fire the ball in quickly, but it was way too late.
Papelbon then struck out Gross, and retired the Jays in the eighth. Edgar Renteria, who had ended the previous inning by grounding hard to first (somehow Eric Hinske speared the ball; if not, a run would have scored), recorded two assists and a putout in that inning. (How many hits has Renteria been robbed of in the past week? Five? Six?)
David Ortiz led off the bottom of the eighth against Vinnie Chulk. On a 2-0 pitch, he continued his seasons-long debate with the statheads -- does clutch hitting really exist? -- by putting his 47th home run into the Monster Seats in left-center. I think Ortiz is winning that argument. ... The crowd above the Wall was so busy cheering, no one went for the ball until it landed at their feet.
With the game tied, Manny walked and Jason Varitek singled. Seeing Wells fielding the ball in deep center, Ramirez sprinted around second and raced to third, bringing the go-ahead run 90 feet from home with a Pete Rose-esque head-first slide. ... However, Chulk retired the next three Sox: John Olerud on a short fly to center, Bill Mueller on strikes, and Nixon on a diving catch by Wells in right-center.
Francona stayed with Papelbon in the ninth. (This was the right move, but would he have pulled him if the Sox had gone ahead?) Hinske hit a two-out double, but did not score.
In the ninth, facing Miguel Batista, our confidence was high. Johnny Damon singled with one out, then stole second. Renteria walked on four pitches. Ortiz fouled off a couple of pitches, worked the count full, and grounded his single past shortstop into left field.
The Legend continues.