Ten Years Gone: 2004 Red Sox walk off on consecutive nights against Baltimore


The Red Sox visit the Orioles this weekend with the Birds in first place, proud new parents of a division title and preparing for the postseason, while the Sox play out the string and look ahead to brighter days in 2015.

Ten years ago, the Orioles stumbled into to Fenway Park for a three-game set with the script flipped: Boston was the one making October plans while Baltimore, despite a superhuman 34 homers and 150 RBI from shiny new toy Miguel Tejada, was among the American League’s also-rans.

More from Red Sox News

But the 2004 Red Sox didn’t make anything easy. The Yankees had just dumped them in consecutive games by a combined 25-5 score, and they dropped the first game of the set with the O’s by a 9-6 margin. After an incredibly hot stretch from mid-August through early September, their pitching was getting hammered. Enter Curt Schilling.

They also didn’t give up without a fight. What followed were two exciting comeback victories that served as a prelude to future October heroics.

Schilling was absolutely dominant in the first game for Boston, throwing eight shutout innings and striking out 14. But the Boston bats were unable to provide much support, and the Sox handed a delicate 1-0 lead to closer Keith Foulke in the ninth. In a rare turn of events, Foulke surrendered a two-run bomb to Javy Lopez on a 3-2 pitch with two outs. Sox fans’ stomachs turned as their team was on the verge of dropping a fourth consecutive game.

The Orioles sent burly 6’6” fireman B.J. Ryan out for the bottom of the inning. Ryan, who compiled an impressive 2.77 ERA in 66 career appearances against Boston, still seemed like he was on the wrong end of a few Red Sox comebacks over the years. This would be one.

Rookie Kevin Youkilis lived up to his Minor League reputation, working a walk to start the frame. Dave Roberts came on as a pinch-runner.

Bill Mueller pelted the Monster with a double.

But Ryan fought back and retired David McCarty and Johnny Damon. Two out.

Manager Lee Mazilli went to Jorge Julio. Talk about punching bags.

Buckled up? All right.

With runners at second and third, Mark Bellhorn pounded a double deep to center, out of the reach of the Orioles’ Larry Bigbie. Mueller and Roberts came racing home, and the Red Sox stormed the field, putting the three-game hiccup on ice.

Back-and-forth was the story of the next game. With Aruba’s Most Wanted Sidney Ponson on the hill and the Sox trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Manny Ramirez deposited a ground rule double into the right field seats to score Mueller, and then Trot Nixon singled to score Damon and tie things up.

Ponson was still dealing in the bottom of the seventh when David Ortiz dug the Red Sox out of a 5-4 deficit with a two-run shot to put Boston up.

But in the ninth, Foulke again faltered. Rafael Palmeiro, who’d missed the previous game with a hamstring strain, took Foulke deep to tie it – the second consecutive game the righty allowed a home run in the bottom of the ninth.

The contest persisted late into the night. I made the short walk to the campus grill during a commercial break to snag a buffalo chicken wrap (College Student Eating Habits for 100, Alex). And there, on the TV in the corner of the room, tiny Red Sox men again stormed the field as a pixilated Orlando Cabrera continued to cement his brief Boston legacy with a game-winning home run.

In that moment, everything was all right. For all the times the Red Sox had stumbled in 2004, even the last two nights when the bullpen had been bamboozled, they were headed to the postseason. For all of the consternation about the pitching and the occasional disappearance of the bats, this squad had the intangibles. And they’d need them, big time, when October arrived.