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Sox answer Angels' 7th heaven10/08/2004 10:38 PM ET
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- In the blink of a vicious grand slam off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero, the Red Sox went from a clean sweep to a most stressful endeavor on Friday at Fenway Park. Ultimately, the stress turned into euphoria. And the sweep of the Angels in this best-of-five Division Series, after being placed in doubt for a few innings, became a reality.
How can a ballpark go from being roundly silenced on one swing to sheer and utter loudness not long after?
Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who has come up countless clutch hits over the last two seasons, showed just how.
Despite being unable to hold a 6-1 lead after six innings, the Sox offset Guerrero's blast with a monumental hit of their own. Ortiz crushed Jarrod Washburn's first (and only) pitch of the day way over the Green Monster for a walk-off, two-out, two-run homer to give the Sox a thrilling 8-6 victory in 10 innings.
The result was better than even Ortiz could have envisioned.
"In that situation, I wasn't really thinking about hitting a home run," said Ortiz, who went 4-for-6. "I wanted to have a good a-bat. I wanted to at least get on base."
Instead, he cleared the bases, right behind pinch-runner Pokey Reese, sending the Red Sox into a mob scene at home plate, reminiscent of the one set off by Trot Nixon's walk-off homer in Game 3 of last year's Division Series against Oakland. Not long after Ortiz got pounded by his ecstatic teammates, he was drenched in champagne in a celebratory clubhouse.
"Ortiz is a special kind of player," said Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "We know he was going to have a good at-bat. We didn't expect it to be that good."
The reward of Ortiz's blast is a chance for the Sox to get a little respite before the stakes get even higher, via a best-of-seven American League Championship Series against either the Twins or Yankees. It is the second trip to the ALCS in as many years for the Sox, who lost to the Yankees in seven games last year.
Friday's victory capped Boston's first postseason sweep since the 1975 American League Championship Series against Oakland.
By taking care of business in such a timely fashion, the Sox will be able to get their rotation set up in perfect working order for the ALCS. It will likely be Curt Schilling in Game 1 and Pedro Martinez in Game 2, an enviable combination that got the Sox out to a 2-0 lead in this series.
Though adversity finally came in this series via Guerrero's slam, the Sox didn't buckle.
"We weren't losing and we weren't going to quit," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We gave a good team a chance to get back in the game, but they never took the lead, and we're hitting last, at Fenway."
Damon, who did it all in this series, got the winning rally started by belting a leadoff single up the middle against losing pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, who went 2 2/3 innings, giving up two hits and one run. Damon was erased at second on a bunt by Mark Bellhorn. After K-Rod struck out Manny Ramirez looking, Angels manager Mike Scioscia -- who doesn't have any left-handed relievers -- brought in Washburn to face Ortiz and try to get the game to an 11th inning. The southpaw, who lost Game 1, made the pitch that ended Anaheim's season and enabled the Red Sox to advance to the next round.
For Scioscia, it was a tough decision to take the dominant Rodriguez out in favor of Washburn. And Ortiz swiftly ended Anaheim's season with one of his patented opposite-field Monster launches.
"Frankie was actually in a high pitch count," said Scioscia. "He threw a lot of pitches [in Game 2]. You know, I think he was getting tired."
While Ortiz stole the show, the win might not have been possible without the clutch work of the Boston bullpen. Closer Keith Foulke went 1 2/3 innings and got out of a second and third, one-out jam in the ninth by striking out Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus.
And Derek Lowe, the starter whose role was shifted in this series, got the win in his first relief appearance since last year's postseason. Lowe stranded the go-ahead run at third and got the Sox through the top of the 10th, giving his offense a chance to end it.
"I knew we had the heart of the order coming up," said Lowe. "You really want to get those guys up with a tie game, and they came through like they have all year."
It was all going so smoothly. The Sox, with that five-run lead in their possession, were just nine outs away from making this a fairly routine victory.
But Bronson Arroyo, who cruised through the first six innings, issued a leadoff walk to Jeff DaVanon. Francona went to the bullpen, and then the complexion of the game -- at least for a while -- changed.
Mike Myers walked Jose Molina, setting up first and second with nobody out. Mike Timlin, who was masterful in the first two games, came out of the 'pen to replace Myers. He started out well, getting Curtis Pride on a popup to short. But David Eckstein smacked a single to right, loading the bases. Timlin forced in a run by walking Darin Erstad.
Then came the dagger. Guerrero silenced Fenway Park by crushing an 0-1 Timlin slider for an opposite-field, grand slam over the Red Sox bullpen in right field. Tie ballgame.
The message Timlin received from his teammates? Don't worry.
"Everybody gave me a huge vote of confidence and said, 'You've picked us up all year long.' I threw not a great pitch to a great hitter," said Timlin. "He tied the game up."
Angels starter Kelvim Escobar labored from the beginning and the Sox took a 2-0 lead in the third on an RBI single to right by Trot Nixon and a fielder's choice grounder by Kevin Millar. Escobar threw 79 pitches over the first three innings.
The Angels sliced the lead in half in the top of the fourth, as Troy Glaus pummeled a 92 mile-per-hour fastball from Arroyo off the center Coke bottle that resides atop the Monster.
In Boston's half of the fourth, the Angels started to unravel. Bill Mueller led off by hitting one under the glove of second baseman Chone Figgins. Mueller reached first on the error. Damon -- who else? -- followed with a single to left, and Escobar walked Bellhorn to load the bases with nobody out for Ramirez. The slugger got a run home, lofting a sacrifice fly to left.
The load (92 pitches through 3 1/3 innings) was simply too much for Escobar to go any longer. Scioscia went to right-hander Scot Shields. The reliever didn't have much of a solution for Ortiz, as the left-handed masher raked an RBI double out of the reach of Guerrero. A walk to Nixon loaded the bases, setting the Angels up to hurt themselves again. Millar made it 5-1 with a fielder's choice to short that Eckstein couldn't handle cleanly, allowing everyone to be safe.
While Arroyo was simply cruising from the mound, the Sox kept chugging away from their bats. With two on and two outs in the fifth, Ramirez looped in an RBI single that scored Mueller from second to bump the lead to five runs.
Even though the lead suddenly disappeared, the Sox had quite a Fenway finish waiting.
"As soon as he hit it, everybody knew it was gone," said Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera. "I was just jumping around and was really excited."
As it turns out, a dugout full of teammates and 35,000 teammates shared Cabrera's excitement.
"This team's got a lot of heart," said Timlin. "We continue to come back and we continue to battle. I put us in a big hole and they battled out of it. That just shows you what kind of team we have."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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