- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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BOSTON -- Wait a minute! What the hell is this?
This isn't the way it works. Not in October. Not when the Red Sox and Yankees play. The Red Sox don't come back, not when winter is so close that "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" should be on TV. When there is a pitching decision to mismanage, they're as predictable as a network sitcom. The Yankees don't fail in the end, not when there is champagne ready to spray in the clubhouse. When there is a championship to be won, they're as unforgiving and relentless as a bank foreclosing on a farmer.
This couldn't be the Red Sox. They not only played one of the worst baseball games in postseason history Saturday night, they played one of the worst games that did not have Charlie Brown on the mound, a beagle at shortstop and a second baseman with a security blanket. They allowed 19 runs and 22 hits in Game 3 and were so emotionally battered that when pitching coach Dave Wallace was asked whether there was another option to Derek Lowe starting Game 4, he replied, "I wish there was."
So what was Lowe doing, keeping the Red Sox in the game for 5.1 innings in what may have been his last start in a Boston uniform? What was closer Keith Foulke doing pitching 2.2 scoreless innings of relief? What was Curt Leskanic doing getting the win one night after allowing three runs while retiring only one batter?
Don't they know how the script works?
This couldn't be the Yankees. They not only had the second-highest scoring total in postseason history in Game 3, they hit the ball as if their bats had "Wonderboy" burned into the barrel. Their Nos. 2-4 hitters alone scored 13 runs.
So what were they doing leaving the bases loaded in two innings, failing to score despite putting the leadoff man on base in five of the final six innings and stranding runners in the final seven innings? What were they doing, being held scoreless for nine innings, an entire game's worth? What the heck was Hideki Matsui doing, making an out?
And what the heck was Mariano Rivera doing, being human?
What a game. The Red Sox entered the ninth inning trailing 4-3 and facing Rivera, the finest closer in postseason history. As a father whisking his son out of the park in the ninth inning replied when the kid asked whether the Red Sox had any chance to come back, "No. He's the best."
Who can blame him for feeling that way? The Red Sox never, never, never beat the Yankees in such a situation. So that's exactly what they did.
Bill Mueller, who took Rivera deep with a walkoff homer back in July, singled home a run against Rivera to tie the score in the ninth, and the Red Sox went on to win five hours after the first pitch when David Ortiz slammed a two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th. While everyone on Boston's bench spilled onto the field to greet him at home plate, the Yankees all staggered to the clubhouse wondering the same thing:
What just happened?
"We are 3-1 right now," said Ortiz, who also won the division series with a walkoff homer against Anaheim. "You never know what can happen, but we're going to keep playing the game."
On the one hand, Game 4 went completely against history. On the other, it followed it to the letter.
"Guys go 4-for-4 one game and 0-for-4 the next, or one guy can give up a home run one night and get the win the next," Leskanic said after holding the Yankees scoreless for 1.1 innings. "That's the way the game has been as long as I can remember, probably all the way back to day one. That's why as a reliever, you need to have a short memory."
No, but Red Sox fans have long memories. They remember exactly how their team has failed each autumn since 1918. And they know how the story works. Right now, they should be peering into the deep waters of the Charles River, cursing manager Terry Francona's pitching moves ("Why did he replace Lowe with Mike Timlin in the sixth when the bullpen was shot? Why did he bring in Mike Myers with the game on the line?") and wondering whether they should leave a note behind or whether just a box score would be sufficient explanation (and justification) for ending it all.
Instead, one fan left Fenway Park shouting, "I'm going to dance in the streets and hug strangers."
So now this team that always, always, always falls in the end somehow survived to play at least one more game, hoping to become the first team to baseball history to rally from a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.
"We're at the bottom of a very big hill," first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said, "but we have one breath left and we're going to use it."
Indeed. They must still win three consecutive games against the Yankees, including two in New York, and their pitching staff is almost worn out and they're trying to do not only what no team in major league history has done in 25 chances but what only two teams in all American major sports history ('42 Maple Leafs and '75 Islanders) have ever done by rallying from a 3-0 deficit. So Red Sox fans might very well be back on the ledge of that bridge tonight.
But you never know in this game. The Red Sox certainly got good news beyond the victory. Francona announced that Curt Schilling threw well in the bullpen Sunday and will start Game 6 if the Red Sox can get that far, though it remains to be seen whether he takes the mound with a special boot, crutches or a peg leg. "As far as I'm concerned [his ankle] is not an issue," Francona said. "We've just got to get to Game 6."
Yes. First there is Game 5. Momentum in baseball usually lasts about as long as your starting pitcher, and both teams have good ones ready for Game 5, with Mike (Moose) Mussina facing Pedro (Mango Tree) Martinez. Despite a wild Game 4 that lasted so long the Yankees had almost as much facial hair as the Red Sox by its end, the two teams have to go back at it this afternoon in Game 5, with the first pitch scheduled for roughly 16 hours after the last pitch of Game 4.
"Everybody is going to have trouble sleeping, probably," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Except maybe from exhaustion."
"We have to sleep fast," catcher Jason Varitek said, "and hopefully sleep strong."
Who knows? Maybe the Red Sox will. After all, given the way last night's game ended, I think we all must have been dreaming.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
4hJohn Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information