Friday, September 06, 2013

A "Game Of The Year" Candidate

I think last night's Red Sox game took about five years off my life.

What looked like a comfortable win looked like it was turning into a horrible loss, with the Red Sox bullpen melting down for six runs in the 7th. And with the Sox down to their last out against Mariano Rivera, Mike Napoli saved the day.

He singled to right, and Quintin Berry went in to run for him. He promptly stole second (he would have made Dave Roberts proud), went to third on an overthrow, and scored on Stephen Drew's single. It was the 15th time the Sox hung a BS (blown save) on Rivera, the most of any team.

The game stayed tied at 8 into the 10th, but when I saw Joba Chamberlain coming in for New York, a smile went on my face. I knew a Red Sox win was at hand.

And sure enough, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second and scored on Shane Victorino's single. Koji Uehara was stellar yet again, getting the Yankees 1-2-3 in the 10th for his 18th save. (He is now three outs from a "perfect game." He has retired the last 24 hitters he's faced.)

It was an amazing night for the Red Sox. What looked like a devastating loss turned into a resilient win. You don't normally consider a game where you've blown a five-run lead a "Game of the Year" candidate. Championship teams win games like this. Nothing seems to faze these boys. And this is a soul-crushing loss for New York, who also had Tampa Bay and Oakland lose too, the two teams they were chasing for the Wild Card. (Baltimore's win puts them a half-game behind New York in the AL East.)

Tampa Bay's loss drops the Red Sox Magic Number to win the AL East at 16. And to wrap up a post-season berth, it is at 13.

The win last night also reminds me of that special night in September 2004, when the Sox scored two in the ninth against Rivera in New York to win, 3-2. I was at the Riviera in Manhattan that night and the place went ape in that inning. It was smack in the middle of that incredible run to the World Series championship.

It was also the 85th win of the year for the Sox. They now have won 16 games more than they have won in all of last year. (Doesn't that seem like a few decades ago?) In the fondly remembered year of 1967, the Sox bested the previous year by 20 games. Can they best last year by 30 games, and maybe win 100 for the first time since 1946? The Sox would have to go 15-5 in their last 20 games. A tall order for sure, but winning with two outs in the ninth and no one on looked like a really tall order as well last night.

You never know.

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