The Red Sox were five outs away from another frustrating loss. No, not frustrating. Frustrating had been left behind in favor of full-on infuriating.
Maybe it was when Ryan Roberts hit into yet another double play in the bottom of the second.
Maybe it was when David Ortiz followed suit in the very next inning, even if Dustin Pedroia's swinging bunt had given the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
Maybe it was when Xander Bogaerts and Daniel Nava reinvented the double play with a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out-when-they-slide-past-the-bag twin killing in the bottom of the fourth.
Maybe it was stranding David Ortiz at second after a one-out double in the sixth.
Or maybe it was when Jake Peavy, having pitched an absolutely fantastic game despite a very tight zone, finally proved fallible by surrendering a solo shot to Mitch Moreland.
Yes, that's it. It was when that tying run came in. And it wasn't because Jake Peavy had failed, somehow. It was because the Red Sox were taking such a terrific effort and squandering it. And unlike in 2013, where every time it happened to John Lackey was just another bizarre blip in an otherwise wonderful season, this was coming with the Red Sox in need of a win.
Most of all, though, it was the atmosphere that followed. A late-inning equalizer like that should inspire quite a few emotions. But in an almost silent Fenway and across Red Sox Nation, what was really in the air was resignation. We saw it coming. We knew that all the waste would not go unpunished. So when it came, we were simply expecting it. It went practically unremarked, seemingly as routine as the sun rising in the East.
That Andrew Miller proceeded to surrender the go-ahead run in the eighth, well, it was the cherry on top.
I mention all this misery because it's important to understand just how much the Red Sox and their fans needed what was to come. Yes, it's just the ninth game of the season, but when those nine games constitute the only real baseball seen or played by the Red Sox in five months, it starts to matter more. It becomes harder to ignore. Harder to pass off as little more than a slump.
So when Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a walk to lead off the eighth, it was just another baserunner to be wasted. And when A.J. Pierzynski's bloop dropped into right field like a gift from the baseball Gods, we lamented the fact that Bradley did not advance to third and awaited the fall of the hammer. And when Dustin Pedroia's hot shot to short just barely avoided resulting in a twin killing, we found ourselves just hoping for a sacrifice fly, and expecting something worse.
And when Neal Cotts' 1-1 offering to David Ortiz was middle-in, and Big Papi sent it deep into the stands in right, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead (one which would not be taken away by instant replay), it was a reminder of where these 2014 Red Sox come from. That their origins lie in six-run ninth innings against the Mariners, and big-time October homers. Maybe the Red Sox never lost sight of that, but if they did, David Ortiz has just sent the message loud and clear that, however capable they may be of frustrating and even infuriating us, there's a good deal more to them than what we'd seen in these first eight games, and it's always too early to close the book on any given game. No matter how bad the first six, seven, or eight innings may have been.
It will go down as just another 4-2 victory in the record books, but if with September in the books the Red Sox are once again on their way to the postseason, we might well look back at this game as one of the more important wins.