10/18/2004 4:06 PM ET
Sox in a New York state of mind
Boston forces Game 6 thanks to Ortiz's heroics
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
|Following his game-winning RBI single in the 14th, David Ortiz has the Red Sox pointed to New York for a Game 6 on Tuesday. (Amy Sancetta/AP)
David Ortiz homers: 56K | 350K
Ortiz's game-winning RBI: 56K | 350K
Ortiz's walk-off single wins it
David Ortiz's first-inning RBI single: 56K | 350K
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BOSTON -- If this is indeed a last stand for the 2004 Red Sox, they are making it an exhilarating one for themselves and their fans. If it's something more than that, it will be a launch toward history that New England will never forget.
For the second day in a row, the Sox saw their season hanging in the balance and never blinked.
Instead, they staged a riveting encore from their epic, 12-inning win in Game 4. It took two innings longer this time, and, again, the Sox found a way.
As it turned out, it was a different night, but the same hero. David Ortiz stepped up again, this time lacing a 2-2 pitch into center field for a two-out, RBI single that scored Johnny Damon from second to give Boston a thrilling 5-4 triumph.
It was Ortiz's third walk-off hit of these playoffs. In fact, Boston's last three wins have all been from an Ortiz hit at last call.
This one came on the 10th pitch of the at-bat off Esteban Loaiza, who was the seventh pitcher used by Yankees manager Joe Torre.
"It's all about having a game plan and having an attitude," said Ortiz. "I've got my own personality when game time shows, so I just bring it all the time. He had some unbelievable pitches. He threw some pitches that I was just trying to foul off because they had good movement and you didn't know if they were going to be balls or strikes because they were getting kind of close."
Ortiz's latest game-winner merely capped off the longest game in postseason history, some five hours and 49 minutes of heart-stopping action.
|ALCS Game 5 countdown|
David Ortiz fouled off six pitches from Esteban Loaiza before hitting the game-winning single on pitch No. 10
Number of blown saves Mariano Rivera has vs. Boston
Scoreless innings by Boston's bullpen
Number of pitchers used by each team, an LCS record
Sox are just the third postseason team to force Game 6 after trailing 0-3
Length of Game 5, an all-time postseason record
Jason Varitek's numbers (.091 BA) against Mike Mussina before Game 5, when he decided to bat right-handed
Passed balls by Jason Varitek in 13th inning of Game 5 (catching knuckleballer Tim Wakefield)
Consecutive nights (Games 4 and 5) that pinch-runner Dave Roberts scored the tying run
Time Mariano Rivera has blown saves in back-to-back postseason games (also the first time he pitched two innings on consecutive nights.)
"It might be the greatest game ever played," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "I'd like to hear other nominations. We were just joking around, that might have been one of the greatest at-bats ever to end the greatest game ever played."
Damon got the winning rally started with a one-out walk in the 14th against Loaiza. Manny Ramirez walked with two outs. And Ortiz sent Fenway Park into a state of euphoria, while punching his teammates' tickets to the Bronx for Tuesday night's Game 6, when Curt Schilling, injured right ankle and all, will make his re-entry to the series.
"I was totally stressed," said Red Sox right-hander Pedro Martinez, who worked the first six innings. "During the time I was in the game, I don't think I felt as bad as I felt walking up and down and looking around and not being able to do anything. It was a little tough to watch. What do I think about my team coming back from 3-0? I think we have the greatest team regardless of what we do tomorrow. We have a whole bunch of grinders. It's a team to be proud of."
Long before Ortiz's season-saving hit, the Sox came back on the Yankees bullpen for the second day in a row. Meanwhile, the Boston bullpen was impenetrable after the exit of Martinez (seven hits, four runs, five walks, six strikeouts), firing eight innings of shutout baseball.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield got the win by pitching three scoreless innings. He got out of a second and third, two-out jam in the top of the 13th by striking out Ruben Sierra on a 3-2 pitch. Catcher Jason Varitek, who rarely catches Wakefield, had some problems with the knuckler, committing three passed balls, one of which came on a strikeout. But he caught the most important pitch of all after Sierra flailed and missed.
Said Wakefield: "After the two-strike pitch got away, I just looked at [Varitek], he looked at me, I said, 'Let's go, we've got to bear down.' And I trust Jason's hand more than anybody else's besides Doug [Mirabelli]."
While Wakefield was the losing pitcher in last year's devastating Game 7 against the Yankees, he prevented the extinction of this season by holding New York to one hit and striking out four in his time on the mound.
The stage was set for all the madness that followed by a two-run rally off Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the eighth that tied the game up.
With the Sox six outs away from vacation and down two runs, Ortiz, who has been everything to the Sox in this series, rifled a solo homer off the Volvo sign atop the Green Monster to lead off the bottom of the eighth. That sliced New York's lead to 4-3. Gordon, who surrendered the blast to Ortiz, walked Kevin Millar. Just as he did in Game 3, Dave Roberts pinch-ran for Millar. The speedy Roberts seemed to distract Gordon. After falling behind, 3-1, he gave up a single to right to Trot Nixon, giving the Sox runners at the corners with nobody out.
Taking no chances, Yankees manager Joe Torre then went to Rivera, who couldn't convert the save in Game 4.
|After playing six one-run games during the regular season, it was only a matter of time before one of the ALCS games came down to just one run. In fact, the entire season series was settled by one run as the Red Sox outscored the Yankees 106-105 over the 19 games the two clubs played. The six one-run games:||Date
|April 19||New York 4 at Boston 5|
|April 24||Boston 3 at New York 2|
|June 1||Boston 4 at New York 5|
|July 23||New York 8 at Boston 7|
|July 24||New York 10 at Boston 11|
|Sept. 17||Boston 3 at New York 2|
|Boston outscored New York, 78-39, in the 11 regular-season contests won by the Red Sox. The Yankees outscored the Sox, 66-28, in the eight captured by New York.|
While it was almost unfair for Rivera to suffer a blown save given the predicament he entered, that's exactly what he received as Varitek lofted a sacrifice fly to center to tie it up.
Sox closer Keith Foulke, who threw 50 pitches in Game 4, was back out there for more. He seemingly willed his way through the ninth. After Sierra (walk) and Tony Clark (ground-rule double) engineered a two-out rally, Foulke induced Miguel Cairo into a popout to first to end the inning.
Could a bullpen be any more clutch than Boston's the last two nights?
"I don't think it's possible, I really don't," said Foulke. "As long as this game has been played, I can't imagine a bullpen coming up bigger than we have the last two days. We just have to keep it going."
For the first time in the series, the Sox went ahead first. Orlando Cabrera got things started with a one-out single to left. Ramirez followed by ripping a base hit up the middle, moving Cabrera to third. RBI machine Ortiz came through again, belting an RBI single to right-center to make it 1-0.
Mike Mussina then battled with his control, walking Millar and Varitek, the latter of which forced in a run to put the Sox up by two.
Martinez was sharp early, but the Yankees did get a quick one off him as Bernie Williams pounded a solo homer to right to lead off the second.
Both pitchers were in clear grooves as the Sox maintained their 2-1 edge entering the sixth.
But the Yankees silenced Fenway in the top of the sixth with a rally off Martinez. With the bases loaded and two outs, Jeter punched Martinez's 100th pitch of the day for a three-run double into the corner in right field to give the Yankees their first lead of the day at 4-2.
"Jeter came up with a huge hit," said Varitek. "[Martinez] made a good pitch. He just drove it down the right-field line."
Nixon made what, in hindsight, wound up being a huge play, making his second diving catch of the day, robbing Hideki Matsui from breaking the game open.
After the latest marathon was complete, the Sox packed their bags for the Bronx.
"This is exactly what we wanted, to build some momentum and go with it to the city of New York and see what happens there," said Martinez. "We have the momentum right now and we hope to [keep] it."
They will entrust that momentum in Schilling's right arm, hoping his ankle gives him enough support to keep Boston's season going right to Game 7.
"It's a chance to get us one step closer to the World Series," said Schilling. "A chance to make up for Game 1, a chance to pick my teammates up."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.