October 18, 2012

Today Is "David Ortiz Day"

It's been eight years - plenty of time for reality to sink in - but do you ever have moments when you think about what David Ortiz did in October 2004 and ask yourself: "Did that really happen?" Did he really do all that?"

I still do.

Eight years ago today, over a period of less than 24 hours, Ortiz and the Red Sox came back from the dead. When the clock struck midnight and Monday, October 18, 2004, began, the greatest comeback in baseball history was about to start.

In the first few minutes of that day, Dave Roberts stole second base and scored on a hard single to center by Bill Mueller. In the bottom of the 12th inning, Ortiz - who had failed to deliver a game-winning hit in the ninth inning - crushed a two-run home run to give the Red Sox a 6-4 win, keeping their slim ALCS hopes alive.

At the time, I was too overwhelmed (or tense or at a complete loss for words or something) and did not write very much. Two short posts - with a trip to the dentist in the middle!

In March 2005, I rewatched all (but one) of the post-season games and posted about what I saw. Here are some of those notes:

Game 4:

Bottom of the 9th: Boston is three outs from being swept and Fox is wrapping up the series. Rivera is on for his second inning. Millar:
93 inside, 1-0
93 over plate, fouled off 3b side, 1-1
93 inside, 2-1
93 inside, 3-1
up and in, ball four
Rivera's cutter usually goes down and away from a right-handed hitter, but almost all of the pitches to Millar are inside.

The crowd roars as Dave Roberts pops out of the dugout, fitting a helmet on his head, bumps fists with Millar coming off the field and stands on first base. It's about 40 degrees. Everyone in the universe knows Roberts will try to steal second base. Roberts immediately takes, as Fox correctly points out, "a huge lead."

Rivera throws over three times. On a replay of the last throw, you can see Roberts saying "Ooooooh" after he slid back in, knowing how close he came to being picked off. In subsequent interviews, Roberts said that after that third throw, he felt totally focused, as though he had been playing the entire game. (Actually, he had not been in a game in ten days – since ALDS 2).

More inside info: Since the sixth inning, Roberts had been in the clubhouse studying videotape of Rivera and Gordon, trying to memorize their moves to first in case he would be needed to pinch-run.

When Rivera finally pitched to Mueller, he was taking all the way. Roberts was off. Posada's throw was right on the money, but a hair late. Jeter was out in front of the bag, but Roberts slid in just before the tag. SAFE! Rivera's next pitch was right down the middle – was he thinking Mueller might bunt Roberts to third? – and Mueller lined it right through the box, knocking Rivera to the ground, and into center field. Roberts scored without a throw and the game was tied at 4-4.

Boston still had a chance to win it. Mientkiewicz moved Mueller to second and Damon reached on an error by Tony Clark, who bobbled his grounder to first. After Cabrera struck out, Damon took second uncontested. Boston had runners on second and third with Manny and Ortiz up. Rivera fell behind Ramirez 3-0, got the count full, then walked him. With the bases loaded, Ortiz popped out to second.

Top of the 11th: Embree in for his second inning. Cairo singled to right, Jeter bunted him over. Rodriguez then lined a ball to the shortstop hole. Cabrera, who had been cheating towards the bag to keep Jeter close, dove to his right, snagging the line drive just as it was about to hit the dirt. Two outs. After falling behind to Sheffield, Embree put him on. Myers came in for Matsui and walked him on four pitches. Damn.

Curtis Leskanic came in to face Williams with the bases loaded. He got a called strike -– and we got a shot of Wakefield warming up in the bullpen, the same Wakefield who had gone 3.1 innings and thrown 64 pitches the night before.

Boston went quietly in the 11th (Wakefield still throwing) and Leskanic came out for the 12th. He allowed a bloop single to Posada, but retired Sierra, Clark and Cairo. If the game went into the 13th, it looked like Wakefield would be in.

Bottom of the 12th: Quantrill took over after two solid innings from Gordon. Manny took a strike, then two balls, then lined a single to left. Ortiz got ahead 2-1 before launching a pitch into the visitors' bullpen in right, winning the game 6-4. In an interview about two minutes after he crossed the plate he said the pitch he hit was one Quantrill had gotten him out with before, so he was looking for it.

There would be no sweep. Lost in the exhilaration was the fact that the top arms in the pen had thrown a lot of pitches: Embree 30, Timlin 37, Foulke 50. And Game 5 would begin in 19 hours.

Yankees - 002 002 000 000 - 4 12  1
Red Sox - 000 030 001 002 - 6  8  0

Game 5:

Tim McCarver started off the broadcast with a pretty good quip: "Boy, these split doubleheaders are great, aren't they?"

Mussina was eight outs away from a perfect game in Game 1, but the Red Sox got to him early this time. With one out, Cabrera singled to left, Ramirez singled to right center, Ortiz singled to right (1-0), Millar walked, Nixon reached on a force at home, and Varitek walked to force in a run (2-0). ... After that inning – 34 pitches – Mussina pitched very well. Over the next five innings, he allowed only two hits (no walks) and no runs.

Pedro struck out Jeter and Sheffield in the first inning, both on three pitches, but he was intermittently sharp. Bernie Williams nailed his first pitch of the second into the right field seats for a home run. (If Joe Buck refers to Bernie Williams as the New York lineup's "forgotten man" every time he comes to the plate, how overlooked can he be?) Martinez allowed a walk and a hit with two outs in the third, a single and a walk to start the fourth, and a leadoff walk in the fifth – yet still kept the score at 2-1.

In the sixth, his luck ran out. With one out, Posada and Sierra singled. After Clark struck out, Pedro hit Cairo to load the bases. As Buck and McCarver pointed out how Pedro loses effectiveness after 100 pitches (he started the inning at 82), Jeter sliced a bases-clearing double down the right field line – on Pedro's 100th pitch. The Yankees took a 4-2 lead.

After a visit from Dave Wallace, Martinez hit Rodriguez (Myers and Timlin were up in the pen) and walked Sheffield. He got the third out thanks to Nixon's tumbling catch of Matsui's sinking liner to right.

Boston had four innings to score two runs. They went in order in the sixth. Bellhorn doubled to start the seventh (and chase Mussina) but Sturtze retired Damon and, after he walked Cabrera, Gordon came in and got Manny to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.

At the start of the eighth inning, Rivera was up in the New York pen. Ortiz hit an 0-1 Gordon offering into the Monster seats and Boston now trailed 4-3. Millar swung wildly at the first two pitches, then took the next four for another crucial walk. And there was Dave Roberts running at first base again. Nixon stepped in and there was an exceptional game of cat-and-mouse between Roberts and Gordon (who had now appeared in all five games of the series):
Gordon looks over, throws pitch (88), called strike, 0-1
Rivera ready, watching from bullpen
Roberts twitching off first Gordon looks over, steps off
Gordon throws over, an easy throw, Roberts dusts off
Gordon holds the ball, and holds it, and holds it, finally Roberts walks back to the bag
Crowd chanting "Gor-don! Gor-don!"
Gordon fakes a throw, Roberts gets back
Gordon throws over to first
Pitch (85) low/inside at knees, called 1-1
Pitch (91) low in dirt in front of plate, 2-1
Pitch (91) in dirt, 3-1
A-Rod to mound to talk
Roberts off with pitch, lined into right field, Roberts to third
After that, Rivera came in and Varitek lofted a fly ball to center. Roberts scored easily, the game was tied at 4-4, and Rivera had blown another save. It was the first time in Yankee history that the team had blown saves in consecutive post-season games.

In the Yankees 9th, the camera caught Schilling rushing to the dugout phone. The next time they showed him, he was sitting on the bench, holding his glove. ... McCarver: "What's he doing with his glove?" Buck: "Interesting question." ... There was a lot of activity in the dugout, Schilling then disappeared down the runway.

During the mid-inning break, Schilling, Lowe and Wakefield had walked from the dugout to the bullpen. The roar of the crowd was deafening. I don't think anything could have said "We will pitch anyone tonight" more than that defiant display.

Boston 9th against Rivera: Damon beat out a single to Cairo's right, but he was then thrown out trying to steal second, although a replay showed him being tagged by Jeter's left wrist instead of his glove. Cabrera grounded out to short and Ramirez flew to center.

The Red Sox had chances to win it in the tenth (Millar doubled over Sheffield's head with one out, but Quantrill got Nixon and Varitek) and eleventh (Mueller and Bellhorn singled with no out, but Damon popped out and (facing Loazia) Cabrera hit into a 6-4-3 DP. In the twelfth, Ortiz walked with one out and tried to steal second base. He may have been safe – some replays seem to show his hand in there – but he was called out.

The Yankees' best chance to score came in the thirteenth. Sheffield struck out against Wakefield, but reached on a passed ball. Matsui forced him at second and Williams flew out to Nixon for the second out. Wakefield's first pitch to Posada rolled away from Varitek (who had caught Wakefield for only two innings during the regular season). After a called strike, another passed ball put Matsui at second. Posada was walked intentionally. Facing Sierra, Varitek was charged with his third passed ball and the runners advanced to second and third. The next pitch was a knuckleball – Wakefield refused to not throw it - that squirted out of Varitek's glove, but it did not go far. Sierra struck out on the next pitch.

In the bottom of the fourteenth, Bellhorn struck out, Damon walked, Cabrera struck out and Ramirez walked. Ortiz then faced Loazia:
Fastball (91 mph), cutting away and down, 0-1
Way outside (90), 1-1
Big rip (88), fouled 3b side, 1-2
Fouled off (90), 3b side, 1-2
Clubbed deep to right, hooked foul, 1-2
Outside (90), 2-2
Pitch up (92), fouled back 3b side, 2-2
Pitch up (92), fouled back 3b side, 2-2
Pitch up (89), fouled back 3b side, 2-2
10th pitch (87) lined to center, single, Damon scores, Sox win 5-4
Buck on Damon: "…and he can keep on running to New York."
Yankees - 010 003 000 000 00 - 4 12  1
Red Sox - 200 000 020 000 01 - 5 13  1

At this point, I was pretty confident the Red Sox would win the pennant.

And so it came to pass ...


Amy said...

Ahh, those were the days. What a wonderful trip down memory lane. Now we can watch the Yankees fail to pull a similar rabbit out of the hat in 2012.

Boy, I miss that team. Just reading all those names brings tears to my eyes.

Jere said...

I'll never forget Mike Francesa talking about how the Sox were just "delaying the inevitable."

laura k said...

Thanks so much for this post. Especially on Yankees Elimination Day!