Red Sox conquer Mo to top Yanks
Crisp's game-tying triple paves way for win at Fenway Park
BOSTON -- Even at a time when he couldn't feel worse about his offense, Coco Crisp proved that he's literally willing to run into a wall for the Red Sox. It nearly worked, only for Crisp's effort to send him tumbling over the short bullpen wall in right-center field, right along with Alex Rodriguez's second home run of the game that the center fielder so badly wanted to catch.
In baseball, though, there's always a chance for redemption, even if it happens to come against one of the best closers of all time.
So on a wild Friday night at Fenway Park -- even by Red Sox-Yankees standards -- Crisp peered in at Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the eighth inning with a chance to be a hero. He braced for the cutter and then, on the first pitch, swiftly flicked his wrists.
What followed was perhaps the biggest hit on a night full of them, leading the Red Sox to a drama-filled 7-6 victory in Chapter 1 of 18 between the rivals this season.
Crisp, who hadn't had much to smile about in recent weeks, stepped to the forefront. His well-struck grounder tore down the first-base line and into the right-field corner. That two-run triple sent a surge of excitement around Fenway Park and tied the game up at 6. So much for the four-run deficit the Sox stared at when the inning started.
"I thought I was going to catch that ball," Crisp said of A-Rod's three-run blast in the fifth that broke a 2-2 tie. "It kind of tipped off my glove. It's unfortunate that I didn't [catch it]. The guy has been swinging a hot bat. It definitely feels good to be able to come back and put some runs up after I couldn't take some away."
A day after rallying back from a 3-1 deficit against the Blue Jays and Roy Halladay, the Sox once again got up off the mat in the eighth.
"They're always exciting games when these two teams get together, but the fashion in which we won was big," said Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "That's huge early in the year to build that confidence that this team can do that."
The hit brought Crisp's average up to .192 and was also his first career hit off Rivera in six at-bats.
"I'm a big believer [that] when you play the game right, good things are going to happen," said Sox utilityman Alex Cora. "He plays the game right."
Cora does, too. How else do explain the left-handed infield rover producing his second game-winning hit in as many days? With Crisp on third and one out, Cora exploited the drawn-in infield with a looper over Derek Jeter's head and into short center field.
The 7-6 lead would have felt a lot safer under normal circumstances. But on this night, the Sox didn't have ace closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was being rested after working on back-to-back days.
That just created another subplot, as Japanese rookie lefty Hideki Okajima trotted in for his first Major League save opportunity.
To convert it, all the lefty had to do was get through hitters like Jeter, Bobby Abreu and A-Rod. Okajima worked around a walk of Abreu and struck out Kevin Thompson to end it.
"That was a good win," said Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, who survived the latest A-Rod barrage (two homers, 12 on the season) and got a no-decision instead of a loss. "It's a real good win for us. We won a real good ballgame in a real good way. [Yankees starter] Andy [Pettitte] pitching the way he pitched early and us doing what we did against Mariano was a good win."
It was a win made possible by an electric surge in that bottom of the eighth that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Down, 6-2, David Ortiz started the comeback by belting a double to left-center field off Mike Myers. Manny Ramirez drew a walk off Luis Vizcaino. J.D. Drew moved the runners up with a grounder to second. Mike Lowell then chipped one run off the lead with an RBI single to left.
Then, it was Rivera time.
Up first was Varitek, and he roped an RBI single to right, setting the table for Crisp and Cora.
Rivera has blown eight of 26 save opportunities against the Red Sox since the start of 2002. Not that it gives the Red Sox all that much swagger when they see him trotting in.
"He's the best in the game," Varitek said. "You have to have a lot go your way. A lot of times, that ball down the first-base line is caught. That ball has got to get by and be hit in the right place."
Early on, A-Rod seemed to be hitting the ball in all the wrong places for the Red Sox. His solo shot in the second made it 2-0 Yankees.
Varitek equalized that with his first homer of the season, a screaming liner off Pettitte that went into the bullpen in right-center field.
If Rodriguez's second homer of the night seemed to take the wind out of Fenway Park much like it briefly deprived Crisp of some breath, it was just a temporary setback for a team that suddenly has plenty of comeback in it.
"I always feel like every year when you're on a team, you have to come back and win one to kind of start doing it," said Schilling. "[Thursday] was really the first time we did it."
Who could have predicted the encore would be twice as dramatic?
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.