|© 2004 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
Notes: Mueller rises to occasion10/19/2004 2:11 AM ET
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Before Monday's Game 5 epic took place, Game 4 was the biggest game of the year to date. Somehow, it was fitting that Bill Mueller's heroics in that contest were overshadowed.
The third baseman of the Red Sox is diminutive in stature, quiet in personality and ever-steady in virtually every facet of the game.
It was Mueller who ripped Mariano Rivera's 1-1 offering into center field for the RBI single that tied Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in the ninth. Much earlier in the game, Mueller had made a tremendous block of third base and subsequent tag-out when Bernie Williams tried to advance on a pitch that had gotten away.
By the end of the night, it was much easier to remember David Ortiz's walk-off homer in the 12th, or the clutch relief performances of Keith Foulke and Curtis Leskanic.
Mueller, as always, was happy to just quietly blend in to the win.
"A lot of interesting things happened last night. It was a five-hour game," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "[Mueller's heroics are] fun to talk about because of the kind of kid he is, the way he goes about his business. He's such a good kid, he gives you everything he has. He's so conscientious in everything he does and he's a pretty good baseball player."
How many defending American League batting champions would be more comfortable hitting in the lower third of the order than the No. 2 slot? By the preference of Mueller, he was moved down earlier in the season. Quite simply, he is a behind-the-scenes type of player.
Mueller now has established a history of success against Rivera, thanks to a big hit last year at Yankee Stadium, the July 24 walk-off blast at Fenway this season and Sunday's season-saving hit.
"I think the more you face someone, sometimes it can help," said Mueller. "I think we are just very fortunate to get some breaks and it's not like we have had a lot of success," said Mueller. "We've just been having some success at the right time."
Wakefield would go in Game 7: If the Sox can win Game 6 and stretch this series to the limit, veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield would likely make the start in Game 7 on Wednesday night. Wakefield was supposed to start Game 4, but instead volunteered his services in relief during the 19-8 loss of Game 3.
Then, he came up with one of the most clutch performances of his career, pitching three shutout innings to wind up the winning pitcher in Game 5.
Foulke does it again: The way Francona's bullpen was taxed the previous two days, he wasn't sure who would be available for action in Game 5. He was fairly confident that closer Keith Foulke would be ready to go, even after firing 2 2/3 hitless innings on Sunday. It turns out Francona was right.
Foulke found a way to get four more outs, helping to make the win possible.
Game 3 starter Bronson Arroyo, who was knocked out after two innings, also came up big, pitching a scoreless inning on one day of rest.
Sticking with Bellhorn: Second baseman Mark Bellhorn entered Game 5 just 1-for-14 in the series with eight strikeouts. But Francona had no thought of inserting Pokey Reese in the lineup in Bellhorn's place.
"No. Why? He drove in 80 runs," said Francona. "That's a lot of runs, that's a lot of RBIs. Hopefully, we'll do it like we usually do, get a lead and then Pokey will go in [for defense]. I think Bellhorn is an underrated, very underappreciated player. Maybe I have more confidence in him than [the media does], which really isn't important. But I think he's a pretty good player."
Bellhorn, who has been Boston's No. 2 hitter for most of the season, batted ninth for the second day in a row. He rewarded Francona's faith getting two hits, including a double.
Francona continues to juggle the lower part of the order. Kevin Millar moved back up to the fifth spot after hitting seventh the last two games. He flip-flopped with Jason Varitek.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.