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A disheartening finish10/08/2004 8:03 PM ET
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Pain and pride. The Angels felt plenty of both Friday night as they watched David Ortiz's fly ball clear the Green Monster for a two-run homer that brought down the curtain on a 2004 season that had more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel. The Angels came roaring back to win the American League West and roared back again in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, overcoming a five-run deficit in the seventh inning to force extra innings thanks to a dramatic grand slam by Vladimir Guerrero. But just when it seemed that Anaheim was poised to steal a game and send a genuine scare through passionate Red Sox fans, Ortiz calmed the nerves of Bostonians by hitting the first pitch from reliever Jarrod Washburn for his walk-off homer in the 10th that sent Boston into the AL Championship Series with an 8-6 victory in the finale and a 3-0 series sweep. "That was just a great at-bat by Ortiz," Angels shortstop David Eckstein said. "He had the ability to stay within himself and not try to do too much. He did a great job of staying inside that pitch and taking it the opposite way. "A loss is a loss, but we went down fighting instead of just rolling over. This club, no matter the situation, kept fighting all year long. Especially when people counted us out. I think that shows what this club is made of, but Boston was just better than us in this series." Angels infielder Chone Figgins agreed, saying the spirited comeback was typical of what this year has been about. "That symbolized the whole season," Figgins said. "Going through all the things we did this year ... a lot of guys coming off the bench and a lot of guys coming up from the minor leagues. Some of the guys who have been here the longest were rooting us on. To come back fighting, being down 2-0 in the series and 6-1 in the game, that shows we didn't give it to them. They had to earn it. If you go over there and ask them in their clubhouse, I think they were on edge a little bit." In the quiet Angels' clubhouse, manager Mike Scioscia and Washburn patiently answered queries about the circumstances leading up to the final pitch of the season.
With a runner at first and two outs in the 10th, Scioscia went to the mound and conversed with Francisco Rodriguez in Spanish before signaling for Washburn and opting for a lefty-vs.-lefty confrontation against Ortiz.The fact that Rodriguez had thrown 38 pitches after throwing 44 pitches two nights earlier in Game 2 loomed large in Scioscia's decision. Scioscia said he was not about to risk a serious injury to Rodriguez. "It was tough," Scioscia said. "But as we thought it through and looked at everything, we felt that was the best way to go. I felt very good with Washburn there and I'd do it again. Rodriguez "was approaching 40 pitches again and that's a lot for a guy in the setup role. The best thing to do was give the ball to somebody else." Scioscia said he considered going to Troy Percival, but felt the best overall scenario was for Washburn to get one lefty hitter out and have Percival fresh to start the 11th inning. Washburn said his first pitch to Ortiz was a hanging slider. "I haven't looked at a replay," Washburn said. "I'm sure I'll see it 100 times in the next week. I wanted to get ahead and not a mistake to him, but I didn't do that. In a lot of places, that's an out. But we're not in those places, we're at Fenway. This is going to stick in my craw for a while. It's never easy ending a season and especially in this manner." The Red Sox appeared headed for a convincing sweep when they built a 6-1 advantage heading into the seventh. But three walks sandwiched around an Eckstein single enabled the Angels to chip within 6-2 and bring Most Valuable Player candidate Guerrero to the plate against Mike Timlin with the bases loaded. What happened next was pure storybook. Guerrero got a pitch to his liking and drilled it over the wall in right-center for a game-tying grand slam that seemed to take all the air out of a Fenway Park crowd that was already primed for a victory party. Just like that, the Angels had a five-run inning on just two hits. The first six innings of Game 3 went right along with the script from the opening two games. Boston starter Bronson Arroyo frustrated the Anaheim hitters, the Angels again had defensive issues and it seemed as though they would quietly head into the offseason. The Red Sox broke on top in the third against starter Kelvim Escobar on an RBI single by Trot Nixon and a run-scoring groundout by Kevin Millar. The Angels drew within 2-1 in the fourth when Troy Glaus hit a towering home run over the Green Monster, but then the Red Sox came back with three in their half of the inning, aided by two Angel errors. Bill Mueller led off with a grounder to the right of second baseman Figgins, and Figgins was charged with an error while failing to make the backhanded stop. Johnny Damon singled and Mark Bellhorn walked to load the bases with nobody out. A sacrifice fly by Manny Ramirez made it 3-1 and Escobar was then lifted in favor of Scot Shields. Ortiz greeted Shields with an RBI double just out of the reach of a streaking Guerrero in right-center. After Shields reached ball three on Nixon with men at second and third, the Angels chose to make it an intentional walk. That strategy seemed golden when Millar hit a double-play ball at shortstop Eckstein. But Eckstein fumbled the ball for an error and the Red Sox were in control with a 5-1 lead. Singles by Mueller, Damon and Ramirez made it 6-1 in the fifth and Red Sox fans grew increasingly energetic as Arroyo started the seventh inning with a three-hitter and the five-run cushion. But that's when the Angels came out of their deep sleep with Guerrero making sure the Anaheim alarm clock went off in time to guarantee an ending laced with high drama. Unfortunately for the Angels, the definitive hero turned out to be Ortiz. The Red Sox move on. The Angels head home to ponder what might have been. "We won our division and to do that with the number of injuries we had says a lot about the kind of team we have," Washburn said. "We had a good season, but just came up a little short."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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