"OK, we're done. Tek, Ellsbury, and Woodward? **** it."
These were my words at about 11 PM (EST) on August 14th. The Red Sox were down 2-4 going into the 9th with all of one batter who might, just might get on base due up.
OK, well, actually, David Ortiz was due up first. OTM poster nuthinboutnuthin made the observation that my having forgotten him was enough of a comment on the season in itself. But in this moment, forgetting about Ortiz made all the difference in the world, as he started what would be one of the most impressive 9th inning rallies of the season, lacing a double into right field off of Texas closer Frank Francisco. In a season where Ortiz never broke an OPS of .800, that in itself was almost all the miracles we Sox fans could hope for. But what followed was the most convoluted chain of events I may have ever seen take place in a baseball game.
First, the impossible happened. In an event that was hailed everywhere as a sure sign of the apocalypse, Jason Varitek beat out an infield single.
Jacoby Ellsbury's single, which made it a 1-run game, was not entirely unpredictable. But all-of-a-sudden the Red Sox had the tying run at 2nd with the winning run at 1st.
If Ellsbury's single was predictable, then Chris Woodward's strikeout was practically inevitable.
And then things got really weird. Now, Clay Buchholz is known to be a pretty fast guy—word is that he's beaten Jacoby Ellsbury in a foot race. But this guy is no baserunner, which made it incredibly puzzling when Terry Francona inserted him as a pinch runner for Jason Varitek. And no light was shed when, on a clutch double by Dustin Pedroia, Buccholz started—then stopped—then started back—then stopped—and then started towards third again. He was out by a mile at home. On a double. Running from second.
In stepped Victor Martinez as the Red Sox' last chance. The Red Sox needed this, up only a half game on the Rangers in the wild card. Martinez took 3 pitches for a ball and 2 strikes, before fouling off 3 of the next 4. With the count at 2-2, Martinez turned on the 8th pitch—a fastball in the bottom of the zone clocked at 95 miles per hour—and smacked it hard into right field. There would be no base running mistakes this time. Ellsbury scored, Pedroia scored, and Martinez stood at second, having given the Red Sox a clutch double and the lead.
Not content with just a one-run lead, Jason Bay hit his own line drive to right, before J.D. Drew took Francisco out of the park. By the time the carnage was done, the Sox had scored 6 runs on 7 hits, including 3 doubles and a home run. Papelbon nailed down the easy save, and the Sox won 8-4.
By itself, a ninth inning rally from down 2 is always an exciting event. But the way this inning played out is like something out of fiction. The down-on-his-luck DH getting a double. The crippled catcher beating out an infield single. Just when everything is going perfectly, a bizarre substitution almost ruins the opportunity. And then in steps the new hero, saving the day with a big hit that scores both the tying and go-ahead run in one fell swoop.
"OK, we're done," I said. "**** it."
I ate crow that night, and it tasted good.