10/14/2003 1:41 AM ET
Varitek's hustle helps Sox pull even
Jason Varitek's hustle helps Sox even series 56K|300K
By Jim Street / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The phone in the Red Sox bullpen rang in the seventh inning Monday night and seconds later, catcher Jason Varitek sprinted onto the field, shinguards on, carrying his bat in his right arm and a big duffel bag over his left shoulder.
Well, "sprinted" might not be the best word, but he was moving pretty fast for someone without much speed.
He quickly went into the home dugout at Fenway Park, grabbed a bat, caught his breath and stepped into the left side batter's box. The Red Sox had the bases loaded, one out and a 2-1 lead.
Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina threw a pitch on the outside part of the plate and Varitek hit it hard to the left side of the infield.
"At first, I thought it was in the hole enough that they couldn't turn a double play," he said. "But (Derek) Jeter got to the ball quickly, so I just took off and ran and did what I always try to do -- beat the throw to first base."
Jeter threw the ball to second baseman Alfonso Soriano who took a little too much time getting rid of the ball, enabling Varitek to step on first base, barely ahead of Soriano's throw.
Varitek signaled "safe!"
First base umpire Joe West saw it the same way, gave the "safe" sign and the Red Sox had a run and a 3-1 lead in a game they eventually won, 3-2.
"I knew he had a little speed in those thighs," Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker said. "Those are the biggest thighs I've every seen my life. That was awesome. As it turned out, it was a game-winner. Varitek is a battler. He gives his whole heart out there every time he plays."
"I thought I was clearly safe," said Varitek. "Otherwise, I would have kicked the dirt."
Then came perhaps an even bigger chore.
Varitek rarely catches knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield, who started Game 4. But when Varitek batted for Doug Mirabelli in the top of the seventh, it also meant catching Wakefield in the top of the eighth.
"It's never easy, but I made sure I got to catch him in the last game of the regular season and I also caught him for about an inning against Oakland (in the Division Series)," he said. "I didn't want to break up his rhythm and made sure that he got beat by his knuckleball and nothing else."
Six knuckleballs later, Wakefield walked Jason Giambi and manager Grady Little made a pitching change, bringing in right-hander Mike Timlin.
Six outs later, Varitek and the Red Sox were in the clubhouse savoring another must-win victory.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League baseball or its clubs.